By Fatou Dahaba
Ahead of the most anticipated Mayoral and Chairpersons elections in the Gambia, electoral observer Gambia Participate has highlighted that vote buying was in practice in some parts of the country, particularly in Brikama North, Banjul Central, and Kiang East constituencies.
The observers made these revelations during a pre-election press brief held on Friday, May 19, 2023, giving an update on what they have observed ahead of the Saturday polls. Their report also revealed instances where non-elected government officials, particularly civil servants, used their influence to campaign for candidates and their parties.
“Despite being prohibited by law, 36% of the observers witnessed the active participation of public servants in political campaigns during official Working hours.” Observers said.
“21% witnessed the active participation of ministers, 19% witnessed the involvement of other government officials, including local government authorities, and 4% witnessed the participation of Permanent Secretaries in political campaigns during official working hours. In the second reporting period (May 12-18).
“13% witnessed the public servants engaged in town halls and 15%witnessed the public servants campaign for candidates or parties during rallies. In the second reporting period, 16% witnessed the public servants engaged in open campaigns, 6% witnessed the public servants engaged in town halls, and 14% witnessed the public servants campaign for candidates or parties during rallies,” the report added.
According to the observers, these activities were most prevalent in Banjul Central, Banjul South, Niamina Dankunku, Niamina West, Serekunda West, Kiang East, Central Baddibu, Illiasa, Lower Baddibu, Sabach Sanjal, Foni Bintang, Foni Jarrol, Kombo East, Kombo South, and Kiang Central.
However, based on the findings, Gambia Participate recommends that the IEC ensure strict compliance with the campaign code of ethics, and public critical electoral information, establish a compliance unit, and increase voter education on the electoral guidelines.
Gambia Participate also suggested that the political parties uphold the electoral code of conduct and the security forces to ensure a conducive environment for all.
The report contains key findings from two observation periods; the first from May 5 to May 11 and the second from May 12 to May 18.