The opening sentence of this piece, “In today’s highly charged political atmosphere”, is with respect very inaccurate.
There is in the Gambia today a very peaceful “atmosphere” where it is accepted by all and sundry (except GDC’s Mama Kandeh) that an exceptionally peaceful and fair election has taken place. The USA was “highly charged” after Trump “won” with THREE MILLION LESS votes than Hilary Clinton. But in the Gambia’s Election the UDP got the giant share of the votes. A fairly conducted election has led to a fair result and that has led to continuing peace and stability in the Gambia. I don’t think anyone can argue about the PEACEFUL “atmosphere” in the country.
It seems to me that “Free Speech” and “one-person one-vote” are deliberately confused here so that a charge of “blatant gerrymandering” can be made. That seems to me, at the very least dubious.
No one doubts that there is FULL “Free Speech” in Barrow’s Gambia today, and no one doubts that in today’s Gambia “one-person one-vote” is FULLY respected – otherwise all of the FONIS would not have returned their 5 MPs for the departed dictator’s APRC party (is that what is bugging the writer?).
“Gerrymandering” is a serious CRIMINAL charge and here in UK the leading case is PORTER v MAGILL (where I think a fine of £10 million was handed out to Lady Porter).
Clearly, Barrow and his government have not done a single thing to be accused of “blatant gerrymandering” since they came into office – not a single thing. Neither am I aware of Jammeh changing the constituency boundaries to benefit his party (he simply made sure that there was no “level playing field” by monopolising the State Machinery to ensure his party won). Of course, Jammeh and Jawara’s governments may not have done enough to change the constituency boundaries to reflect the demographic changes over the decades, but that is not the same as “sorting and grouping voters”:-
This statement is simply wrong as far as the Gambia is concerned: “Gerrymandering is the process through which legislative districts are crafted by sorting and grouping voters in ways that advantage or weaken one political party over the other…. And it’s because of gerrymandering that major cities have not enjoyed much political clout within the nation.”
In the Gambia, the change in the size of constituencies happened, NOT because of the politicians “gerrymandering”, but because PEOPLE MOVED from the hinterland to the cities. “approx 7,000 voters per MP in the Fonis, but 45,000 voters per MP in Kombo South”, claims the writer. Taking that at face value, the “lopsidedness” did NOT happen because of “gerrymandering” by politicians, but because hundreds of thousand of Gambians moved in the last three decades from the hinterland (like the Fonis and Basse) to the Kombos – thus swelling the population of the Kombos … and creating the “lopsidedness”. It has nothing to do with politicians “gerrymandering”. The politicians could have done something about it, but the fact that they did not does not amount to “gerrymandering”.
The Gambia is an “Anglophone country and “First Past the Post” or “Winner Take All” is the democratic system in both the USA and the UK. The idea is that this provides a more STABLE government than the “proportional representation” system – which at its worst has produced something like 30 governments in Italy in the last 40 years. The downside of the proportional representation system are many but two are obvious:
- The voter does not elect his MP – the elector votes for a party.
The party then chooses the MP when seats are shared out according to the national vote between the parties.
I am sorry, but the African electorate wants to know the person they are voting for – preferably local and one of them, chosen by them … not by the party leaders in the big city. Voting for a party rather than an individual may have the advantage of focussing the mind on the issues rather than the individual, but as Halifa Sallah says often “we have a long way to go before we get there”.
CLEARLY, THERE IS A STRONG CASE TO BE MADE FOR CREATING MORE CONSTITUENCIES IN THE KOMBOS – AND GENERALLY BALANCING THINGS OUT BY REDUCING THE NUMBER OF MPs IN BANJUL AND FONIS WHERE THE POPULATION HAS DECLINED OVER THE YEARS. THERE IS NO CASE FOR ABANDONING THE FIRST-PAST-THE-POST SYSTEM.
Politicians in power are always reluctant to change a system that has benefitted them and brought them to power. A poorly made case for change does not help convince them.
The limited or low number of voters in the constituencies in the Fonis was not due to rural urban drift but was well calculated by Yahya Jammeh to increase his chance of getting more MPs in the National Assembly than his opponents.
I think Foni used to have 2 constituencies before APRC increased it to 5. I think it used to be Foni East & Foni West, with Alkali James Gaye representing West and Bakary Kutti Sanyang representing East, except when he lost to independent, Henry Michael Jammeh, who is related to Yaya Jammeh.
We do need constituency redemarcation to make representation a bit more balanced per constituency.
Yes it is something like that. Before the constitution was amended the power to demarcate constituency boundaries was vested in IEC. Under Mr Telewa Johnson the IEC did demarcate the boundaries of the constituencies in accordance with the constitution but just before presentation to the National Assembly for approval, Jammeh remove Mr Johnson, stripped the commission of its power to demarcate constituency boundaries and even to scrutinize electorates during registration to ascertain their qualification to register. He then came up with the current constituencies which are based on chieftancy boundaries in total disregard to voter population per constituency.
Bax you are right. Foni use to have only two MPs in Jawara’s time. It was Jammeh who changed it to 5MPs.
“First Past the Post” or “Winner Take All” is the democratic system in both the USA and the UK. … How does that compute, when
“Trump “won” with THREE MILLION LESS votes than Hilary Clinton”…
Please help me understand… thanks