By Fatou Dahaba
Following Saturday’s heated mayoral and chairperson elections, observers monitoring the elections say the polls were free and transparent.
Updating the media, Gambia Participates, an organization that monitored the elections, said their observers acknowledge that the just concluded mayoral and chairmanship elections were free and transparent.
At a Sunday news conference in Kololi, observers said they were allowed to observe the entire process, from setting up to the counting process, and these were all transparent.
However, the preliminary report indicates that there was misconduct in some polling stations, and they reported that in 3% of polling stations, party agents attempted to influence polling officials.
” These were observed in the Former Senegambia Garage Polling Station in Serekunda West, Mayork Health Center Polling Station in Foni Bondali, Nemakunku and Old Yundum, Bantaba Polling Stations in Old Yundum. In addition, in 5% of polling stations, people were seen canvassing for votes (i.e., asking voters to vote for a particular candidate) around the polling stations. Specifically, these were observed in 22nd July Square and Bethel Church polling stations in Banjul Central, Gidda polling station in Lower Fulladu West, Mauritania School polling station in Bundungka Kunda, Lamin St. Peter’s Primary School Polling station in Busumbala, Nemakunku and Old Yundum Bantaba polling stations in old Yundum,’ the group told journalists.
“In 3%of the polling stations, there were incidents of harassment and intimidation of polling officials, Party/candidate agents, or observers during the counting of ballot tokens. These were observed in Marche Ngelew polling station in Serekunda, Jinack Kajata Bantaba polling station in Lower Niumi, Medina Bafuloto Market polling station in Upper Niumi, and Gunjur Kunkujang Bantaba Polling station in Kombo South.”
Gambia Participate recommends and encourages the National Assembly to prioritize legislation to harmonize the conduct of elections, as this will help alleviate voter fatigue and make elections more cost-effective in The Gambia.
” Vote buying and voter inducement become more prevalent in elections. As a result, authorities must do more to sanction vote buying because it reduces citizen confidence in elections. For this to be addressed, the IEC must work with law enforcement and anti-corruption bodies to deploy sufficient officials during electoral campaigns and on election day to detect, deter and punish acts of electoral clientelism, they noted in their findings.
With only three years ahead of the next electoral cycle, Gambia Participates recommends the IEC, National Assembly, and political stakeholders expedite the electoral reform process and, in this reform, introduce new and secured technologies to ease election administration and access to timely election results.