In August last year, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) issued a statement calling on political parties to ensure they regularize their status in order to take part in the forthcoming 2016 presidential election.
“All Political Parties are urged to regularize their status accordingly,” the IEC stated.
The new amendment also stipulates that all political parties are to ensure that all their executive members are resident in the country and that all political parties have a secretariat in each Administrative Region and that the Constitution of the Party requires it to hold a biennial congress.
The move taken by the IEC has been described by many as part of a ploy that would allow the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) to stay in power for another five years.
“Will the IEC issue registration certificate to opposition parties come March 31st?” quizzed a prominent Gambian activist lawyer Assan Martin, in an interview via Skype.
Lawyer Martin said this appears to be a carefully laid trap by Gambian authorities. “Instead of replying to opposition demands for electoral reforms, the govt came up with this new amendment which is going to kill Gambian democracy”.
He decried the decision taken by some political parties to comply with the new amendment. “Up to now, no Gambian political party has fulfilled the requirements.”
Omar Amadou Jallow of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said his party has fulfilled all the conditionalities.
The main reason for this deplorable situation is none other than the lack of unity within the opposition. “If the opposition cannot come together and fight those who don’t fulfil the conditions will be deregistered,”he said during a telephone interview..
He agrees that unity within opposition ranks could have helped to challenge the new law. “The lack of unity within opposition parties is allowing Gambia government to go away with a lot of bad laws”.
The leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) Halifa Sallah has vowed to challenge the new amendment if govt go ahead with the new law and deregisters political parties. “Deregistration of parties is unacceptable and I will be uncompromising in challenging it,” he told supporters during a political rally held last Sunday.
PDOIS Presidential candidate, who has pledged to serve one-term if elected, was quoted by opposition newspaper Foroyaa as saying: “The Constitution of The Gambia protects rights which have already been acquired before the passing of a new law”.
Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by President Yahya Jammeh who seized power in 1994. He is running for a fifth term in office after being nominated by party delegates during a congress held this year. His 21-year rule has been described by activists as being marked by gross human rights violations.