The amendments to the Election Act endorsed by the National Assembly are a clear manifestation of the Jammeh regime’s desire to truncate democracy in The Gambia. The majority party in the National Assembly has done what it is known for… blindly endorsing any piece of legislation that comes before it from the executive without properly weighing the consequences. On July 7th, 2015, the National Assembly in a deliberate attempt to thwart the democratic process in The Gambia passed the elections [Amendment] Bill 2015 with which now increases the deposits for different elective offices up to 900%.
The amendment imposes an obligation on political parties to present audited accounts to Independent Electoral Commission annually. These new provisions would have been justified if political parties enjoy funding from government. Several years ago, Bishop Tilewa Johnson as chairman of the IEC proposed the establishment of a democracy fund into which all parties could tap for funding; the APRC NAMs killed the proposal. There is no justification for the IEC or any other institution to insist on been provided with audited accounts in order to determine how funds provided by individuals are spent.
The passage of this Bill is a betrayal of trust and confidence reposed on the members of the National Assembly by their constituents. From now on, contesting for elective office will be determined by the wealth one is able to accumulate to satisfy the onerous financial conditions introduced by the amendment. This effectively restricts the democratic space by reserving participation in elections for only those with financial means to run for public office.
The election decree 1996 now Elections Act 1996 provided for registration of political parties at no fee. An outrageous provision introduced by the amendment requires a new political party to pay a registration fee of one million (D1,000,000.00). In contrast, you will hardly find a business/commercial entity that is required to pay the same amount as registration fee. This unprecedented move by the executive which is using the name of IEC in its anti-democracy drive runs contrary to the provision of the constitution that guarantees freedom of association.
This amendment constitutes an assault on our democracy. The UDP believes that participating in politics or contesting elections ought to be seen as opting for public service with the sacrifice that comes with it and NOT a “profit generating” commercial/business venture.
The UDP calls on the president not to assent to the bill passed by the National Assembly if he still believes statements he made on 22nd July, 1994 as the reasons he gave for the overthrow of the Jawara regime.
1 Rene Blain St.
July 9, 2015