The Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has rejected the proposed electoral reform, calling it a fulfillment of the APRC’s widely touted No Election agenda. The biggest impediment to the party’s agenda is Section 100 (2) (a) of the Constitution, the party stated.
“APRC supporters of various categories had in the past called for “No Election” in The Gambia,” the UDP said in a statement. “Election to representative institutions in The Gambia takes place more often between candidates sponsored by different political parties. There have been instances where independent candidates and party sponsored candidates vie for the same elective office.”
The party said “President Yahya Jammeh and his enablers and collaborators have now found a route to realize APRC’S “No Election” agenda.” This, according to the UDP evidenced in President Yahya Jammeh’s “self-perpetuating scheme calling on the National Assembly to ratify his party’s anti-free fair and transparent election by endorsing a Bill titled the Elections (Amendment) Act 2015.”
The amendment calls for the hiking of presidential candidates’ deposit by D990, 000. This proposed law, which is yet to become public, makes security deposits non-refundable. “The current requirement is to deposit D10, 000 that is refundable to a losing candidate provided that he secures not less than 40% of the votes cast,” the UDP stated. The party also complained about the increase of deposit of aspiring National Assembly candidates from D5, 000 to 100, 000. The amendment also increased deposit for aspiring Mayoral and Councillorship candidates by D47, 500 and D8, 750, respectively.
The party said the proposed amendments are not only “preposterous and ridiculous” but “they also expose Jammeh’s unwillingness for meaningful electoral reform. The Jammeh amendment ignores the fact that Section 26 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen of The Gambia of full age and capacity the right without unreasonable restrictions to take part in the conduct of public affairs directly or through freely chosen representatives; to vote and stand for elections at genuine periodic elections for public officers.”
The party said monetary conditions required to be satisfied by any person who wishes to contest for any of the elective office constitute unreasonable restrictions to the exercise of guaranteed rights to do so. The UDP also questioned the “rationale for decreeing the payments/deposits as non refundable? Why charge a fee of One million dalasi for registering a political party? Is the IEC now a business/commercial enterprise?” the party asked, calling on lawmakers to reject the “Bill in toto”, for “they (APRC NAMs) risk becoming hostages to the whims and caprices of Yahya Jammeh who at will expels any member of the APRC. National Assembly Members must not allow themselves to be placed in political servitude and bondage.”