The leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) has complained about the political atmosphere in The Gambia. Hamat N.K. Bah said there is every indication that the country’s political life is under serious threat.
Mr. Bah made the statement in the face of the Independent Electoral Commission’s decision to seek an amendment of the 2001 Act. The 2015 amendment bill, among others, proposes to amend Section 43 (1) of the Principal Act. The bill hikes security deposits for all would-be candidates. Presidential deposit which used to be D10, 000 is now a million Dalasi. National Assembly deposit is hiked from D5000 to D100, 000 while that of Mayor is increased from D2, 500 to D25, 000. Councilor deposit is increased from D1, 500 to D10, 000.
Accordingly, the new amendment bill also obliges all executive members of all political parties to be resident in the country, have offices in all the region of the country, hold congress bi-annually and submit their annual financial report to the Independent Electoral Commission for scrutiny.
The bill further obliges political parties’ registration from five hundred signatures to ten thousand registered voters’ signature plus a bond of one million Dalasi. The bill mandated the IEC to issue permits for political processions, rallies and spot counting at polling stations.
The bill forces political parties to be highly organize and run by serious people who provide minimum standards for registration and functioning of political parties in the country.
Mr. Bah said there is enough reason for the public to pressure their representatives to reject what he called a “misplaced bill,” which aims to disenfranchise Gambians from participating in a free and fair election. He said such a “pocket democracy” makes it hard for ordinary Gambians to participate in elections.
“We are totally opposed to this bill because it is barring people from actively taking part in the democratization process of this country,” Mr. Bah told journalists. Though some of the amendments such as spot counting and issuance of permits by the IEC are positive but others are horrible. Bah said this latest plot was borne out of the ruling APRC’s fears of winning any free and fear election. “So they want to come up with such laws to discourage people from taking part in elections,” he said.
“They (APRC) want to get rid of elections in country, but this is unacceptable and even if the parliament accepted the bill they are digging their own grave. APRC government only want to be sideline political pluralism in the country by coming up with this new amendment bill,” Bah remarked, promising his party’s resolve to fight against the government’s latest scheme to defeat democracy.