Friday, August 28, 2015

The disastrous consequences of the Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2015

Bah, Darboe, Asst. Mayor of Raleigh, NC and O.J. 
When you try logging on to IEC website this is the message that greets you "IEC.GM is Under Construction. Come Back Soon." Yet, the Electoral Commission is churning our "press statements" at breakneck speed warning opposition parties of the catastrophic impediments they are likely to face as a result of the recently passed "Election (Amendment) Act 2015".

The most recent press statement from the IEC as reported by The Point newspaper (The Daily Observer would rather carry a story by one Alhagie Balla Musa Wally who discovered recently that the Diaspora news outlets are the most boring in the world because they focus on the negatives of Jammeh) is urging political parties to regularize their respective statuses to enable them to contest in the upcoming presidential elections slated for 2016.

The statement goes on to state 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 IEC statement goes further to say that ",,,in accordance with the said laws, each existing part shall write an undertaking that it shall submit its yearly audited accounts to the Commission." The statement ends in what is referred to in journalism as the 'kicker' (I learned the term from Coach - Dr. Ebrima Ceesay) which says "[T]he above criteria AND ANY OTHER (emphasis ours) as enshrined in the Electoral Laws of The Gambia shall be met by all existing political parties latest 31st March 2016 as per the Election (Amendment Act 2015.

To cap it off, the statement reminded all parties that to field a presidential candidate it will cost each party D 500,000 ( $11,000) and D 50,000 for each parliamentary candidate in a forty-eight seat parliament that the regime is proposing to increase to fifty-three if the Chairman has his way.

The fears we expressed recently are beginning to be confirmed in slow motion by the Chairman of the IEC who is illegally occupying the seat.  In characteristic style, with the full endorsement of the membership of a rubber stamp Commission, Chairman Carayol is slowing but surely unveiling the Electoral (Amendment) Act that we described in our previous blog post as “posing a great threat to the electoral landscape”, because it is a bad and punitive law designed to limit opposition access to the electoral process by excessive and unrealistic entry fees and other draconian measures.

Can the IEC dictate to political parties what should be in their Constitutions of Party Manifestos? Can the IEC demand audited accounts of political parties that will reveal their sources of financing without the requirement having a damping effect by scaring off potential donors to the opposition? Do we know all that's in the law?  We venture to respond in the negative.  The provisions that made it into the Election (Amendment) Act 2015 are there for a reason and it is time the Opposition start asking the right questions and to take - head on -  a Commission that is callously leading the Gambia down the path to absolute electoral chaos that will inevitable threaten the peace and stability of The Gambia.  All opposition parties must speak up now or forever hold their peace.