Wednesday, June 17, 2015

GAMBIA: 10,000% increase in nonrefundable fee or poll tax for presidential candidates

IEC Chairman taking an oath to be impartial
Plans are afoot by the Gambian dictator to increase fees for presidential candidates by 10,000%.  Yaya Jammeh, through the Independent Electoral Commission, plans to submit the proposal that will raise the fee from D 10,000 ($ 222) to D 1,000,000 ($ 22,000), to a rubber-stamp National Assembly that will automatically give the dictator the green light.

Another change is that the fee is no longer refundable, even if you have 20% of the votes, as it is the case now, which effectively transforms these "deposits" into poll taxes for the political parties.

Candidates wishing to stand for the National Assembly will also see their fees raised from D 5,000 to D 100,000 or 950%.  Candidates for the presidential elections would, in addition to the exuberantly high nonrefundable fees, will be required to secure 10,000 signatures per voting constituency to qualify to be placed in the ballot.

The current fees that are now subject for revision are fixed in the 1997 Constitution.  Therefore, to change them would require an amendment to the Constitution.  The proposals are so breathtakingly far reaching and extensive in scope, affecting the very core of the electoral system, that to implement them tantamount to the death knell of opposition political parties.

The timing and the extent of the proposals make them suspect and lack credibility.  It could be a political ploy to divert the energies of the opposition away from the immediate task of coalescing around a single candidate, provided electoral reforms take place place - the kind that opens up the process rather than one that constricts voter and political party participation in the electoral process.  

The opposition parties must form a Unified Front to fight these new rules that Jammeh wants to put in place before the 2016 elections which, we will continue to maintain, Jammeh should not present himself as a presidential candidate.  Twenty-two years is enough.  He should allow his party to select a candidate of its choice.

It is absolutely imperative for the opposition in unison, in this particular case, to make it clear that these proposals are unacceptable. To do otherwise is playing into the hands of a man who, in desperation, will go to any length to make the political environment untenable and the electoral terrain hostile to all and sundry, except the ruling party.