Tuesday, October 27, 2015

GAMBIA: Election boycott is an option

Mustapha Carayol, Chairman of Gambia's IEC
The main opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP) under the leadership of lawyer Ousainou Darboe. is currently toying with the idea of participating in Gambia's presidential elections scheduled for the latter part of 2016.

The National Reconciliation Party (NRP) led by hotelier/businessman Hamat Bah, has stated consistently that his party is opposed to any form of election boycott.  Thus it is safe to say that the NRP will not join in any boycott effort should miracle strikes.

The People's Democratic Organization for Indepenedence and Socialism (PDOIS) led by a former civil servant and social worker, Halifa Sallah, is unclear in its stance as regards election boycott in general and the 2016 elections in particular. However, the party has issued a full-throttled, point-by-point response to the recently-passed Elections (Amendment) Act of 2015, and proposing to the Independent Electoral Commission to invite stakeholders comprising political parties and government to discuss the new electoral law with the view of building consensus.

Unfortunately, since a letter was addressed to the IEC Chairman immediately following the passage of the Act in July, there has been no response while the clock ticks.  If previous reactions to such requests are any indication, the Chairman will ignore this request like previous ones.  The Chairman has never been independent.  He has always taken instructions from the Gambian dictator, and this year will be no different unless the opposition adopts a new set of strategies.

There's a litany of outstanding and critical issues relating to future conduct of elections, including but not limited to, registration of political parties including exorbitant fees and deposits, constituency boundaries and all the issues relating to and raised by the Elections (Amendment) Act of 2015.  The fact that the Chairman is illegally occupying the Chair is, in itself, a central and vexing issue that must be addressed.

The opposition parties must start applying pressure, applying every civil disobedience tactic in the book to force the IEC and the regime to come to the table.  If all consensus building efforts fail, boycotting the elections will be the only option available to the opposition to deny legitimacy to a regime that is becoming increasingly fascist in its style of governing.