The Secretary General of the opposition PDOIS has written a letter to the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Mustapha Carayol, drawing his attention to some flaws and concerns regarding the supplementary voter registration. Among the concerns mentioned by Halifa Sallah included supplying voter registration outideregistration period. Read the full text of the letter below:
Independent Electoral Commission
Bertil Harding Highway
10 February 2016
SUBJECT: OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIRST THREE WEEKS OF REGISTRATION
Three weeks have elapsed since your office commenced the supplementary registration exercise.
It is important to begin by referring you to Legal Notice No: 10 of 2015 cited as the Re-Demarcation of Constituencies Order 2015 which aimed to do away with Kombo North Constituency and replace it with Sanneh Mentereng, Old Yundum and Busumbala Constituencies. You aimed to replace Kombo Central with Brikama North and Brikama South Constituencies. SerreKunda East Constituency is supposed to be replaced by Tallinding Kunjang and LatriKunda Sabiji Constituencies and SerreKunda Central Constituency is supposed to be replaced by SerreKunda and Bundungka Kunda Constituencies.
The creation of six additional constituencies was rendered null and void because of the limitation imposed by Section 88 of the Constitution which restricted the number of Constituencies to 48.
We pointed out that an amendment to the Constitution was necessary before the Re-Demarcation of the Constituencies mentioned could be effected.
On 29th December 2015, the National Assembly passed the Bill which aimed to make it mandatory for the National Assembly to comprise at least 53 elected members from constituencies demarcated by the Commission.
This Bill was assented to by the President on 30th December 2015. It was published in the Gazette to become law on 13th January 2016. You now have to put 53 Constituencies in place.
Hence it is mandatory for the Commission to demarcate and conduct general registration in the new constituencies. This is the requirement of Section 88 of the Constitution and Section 11 of the Elections Act.
It states “The Commission shall prepare, compile and maintain in accordance with this part, a register of voters for each constituency (our emphasis) and a register of Gambian registered voters in foreign countries.”
It adds: “a register of voters shall contain the names of persons who are entitled and applied to be registered in a constituency”.
The people resident in any new constituency are entitled to apply and be registered in such constituency.
In the absence of the possibility of the transfer of voters it is mandatory to hold General registration in any constituency that is engendered by any Re-demarcation exercise. We hope you will take note of this fact and accordingly respond to the requirements of the law.
The Registration Exercise
The registration Centres are being monitored to the best of our ability by PDOIS registration agents. After a debriefing exercise, the Central Committee deems it wise, right and proper to address these observations to you:
- GUIDELINES TO PDOIS AGENTS IN THE ABSENCE OF RULES OF ENGAGEMENT FOR REGISTRATION AGENTS
The Commission was asked to prepare and distribute rules of engagement for Registration Agents as provided for under Section 134 of the Elections Act by the party trainers of Registration agents. This has not materialised. In this regard, we have asked our Registration Agents to carry out the following tasks as they monitor the conduct of Registration:
- Monitor whether Registration is taking place at the designated Registration Centres as required by Section 15 of The Elections Act and report any flaw to area supervisors for a remedy;
- Sit where one could see claimants and hear the issues raised by Registering officers to determine claims;
iii. Record all numbers of voters’ cards issued during the first day to determine whether they are numerically serialized;
- Record the first and last numbers of voters cards issued if they are serialised;
- Note down the documents presented to determine citizenship;
- Take note of the fact that only the registration teams should have possession of Attestation forms and should give it directly to independent claimants who do not have any form of identification so that they would take them to their village Alkalo/District Chief for Attestation;
viii. Record all observations of conduct which are deemed to be alien to the registration process for onward transmission to headquarters.
After some teething problems regarding the positioning of registration agents, a modus operandi which is acceptable to all sides is in place in many centres. Adjustments are being sought and made as and when required.
- RESULTS OF OUR ENGAGEMENT
- a) The Importance of some form of Serialisation of voters’ cards Numbers
Registration of voters should be a transparent exercise. This is why it should not be done in secret. Monitoring is also absolutely necessary. Serial numbers are important to prevent registration from being done outside registration centres. When card numbers are serialised one could take the last number each day after the close of registration to ensure that the first card number on the following day would fall in place in a numerical order.
The first dilemma which confronted our registration agents is the absence of serial numbers on voters’ cards. There was no numerical sequence in the issuing of card numbers to the various claimants. We had to raise this issue with the commission. The Information Technology (IT) unit explained what was not made evident to the registration officers and trainers during the training exercise.
It was intimated to us that every voter’s card bears a set of numbers which represent the allotted number of the machine, the date and time of registration.
According to them, the machines are programmed not to operate beyond 5pm when registration must cease.
We have been monitoring the time sequence. A departure from the 5pm dead line in the time sequence occurred in the Issuing of the following cards:
card no: 0111601181713304700
card no: 0111601181702100859
card no: 0111601181707424527
card no: 0111601181710303090
The following are cards that were issued after 5pm on the 4 February 2016;
card no. 0111602041714105050
card no. 0111602041709348100
card no. 0111602041703467739
They were all issued after the 5pm deadline for the closure of registration for the day.
We will monitor the registers after their compilation to find out the extensiveness of such a departure from standard procedure. The IEC should renew and buttress its instruction for the registration teams to adhere to 5pm closing time.
- b) Registration away from Registration Centres
After spending an hour searching for a registration centre in the KM area, it was finally located in the compound of an Alkalo by our registration agent. The Senior Registration Officer of the area was contacted to provide a remedy. The team moved to its designated registration centre.
- c) The location of Alkalolu during Registration
The promise made by the IEC is that the village heads should remain in their homes and wait for attestation forms to be brought to them by claimants who are issued with the forms by a registration officer.
THE TRANS–CONSTITUENCY BOUNDARY
After the first two weeks, the registration teams are moving to other registration centres. Interestingly enough, some teams have moved from registration centres located in one constituency to others situated in another constituency. Our supervisors would meet the Chief Electoral Officer to find out how the machines would do the demarcation on the basis of constituency and inform the public of our findings. At the moment, we are questioning why machines are not allocated according to Ward since the card numbering is based on the number of the machine and the dates and time of registration.
We hope finance would not be utilized as an excuse. If the Executive and the Assembly could approve approximately 111 Million Dalasi for celebration of events in 2014; another 111 Million Dalasi for 2015 and 65 Million Dalasi for 2016, it would be unjustifiable if it is claimed that funds are not available for the registration of voters, without resorting to cost management strategies, which may not be the most efficient.
THE LEVY FOR REPLACEMENT OF CARDS PROMOTE CORRUPT ELECTORAL PRACTICES
There is report of people who need to replace their cards being given financial support by political aspirants. Why is replacement so expensive? We will get experts to find out what the real cost of a voter’s card is.
Notwithstanding, in imposing a levy to replace voter’s cards the IEC has made the poor more vulnerable to the politics of patronage. What is the difference between buying and selling votes and offering to pay the replacement fee in exchange for political support?
The IEC should revisit this policy. It is counterproductive, to say the least.
While anticipating that the issues raised would be given appropriate consideration,
Yours in the service of the Nation
For The Central Committee