The Gambia’s Elections Chief okayed upcoming reforms aimed at allowing Diaspora Gambians to take part in national elections, saying they have the rights to vote and to be represented in the National Assembly.
Alieu Momar Njai made this remark Monday during the opening ceremony of a five-day long Advocacy Seminar on Inclusive Politics for Youth, Women and Persons with Disabilities from Political Parties and CSOs and which is being held at Baobab Hotel in Bijilo.
The announcement comes at a time when consultations with Gambians abroad kick-started by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) are taking shape.
Diaspora Gambians played a leading role in ending two decades of dictatorship by former long time ruler Yahya Jammeh who showed no interest in allowing them to take part in the country’s electoral process.
By virtue of them being Gambians, the Chairman of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) made it clear that Diasporans should vote, but also be offered the possibility to have representatives that stand for parliamentary elections.
He then cited the example of neighbouring Senegal where 15 representatives of the Diaspora have succeeded in making their way to Parliament in an effort to turn the institution into an inclusive lawmaking body.
Civil society groups such as Norway-based Gambia House and the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA) are making big pushs in the conversation about the review of Gambia’s Fundamental Law.
IEC boss disclosed that the electoral body will soon start consultations with various stakeholders. He seized the opportunity to assure that all political organizations will be treated equally.
Reacting on the issue, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) leader, Papa Njie, said democracy and inclusiveness start at political party level.
He welcomed the move taken by IEC Chair to champion the cause of Diasporans to exercise their voting rights.
“They must be able to vote and to be represented in Parliament,” he voiced out.
Similar sentiments were reechoed by British High Commissioner Sharon Wardle who described inclusive politics as pivotal to strong democracy.
“If you exclude members of the society, then it is not going to be a true democracy,” she told this medium.
The Advocacy Seminar is organized by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.