Monday, October 24, 2016

Jammeh and the IEC do not appear ready for elections

Jammeh and Singhateh, Election Day 2011
Yaya Jammeh who's been known to personally bankroll the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the body charged with the authority by the Constitution to referee all elections in the Gambia. is reportedly less endowed, financially, during the current presidential and legislative election season to do so.

The traditional donors who played a critical role in past elections, both in supplementing government's financial contribution and well as participating in election monitoring to ensure a level playing field, have been conspicuously low key with a little over a month before the presidential elections scheduled for 1st December.

The silence on the ground has been deafening, as it has been particularly troubling. The United Nations Development Program Representative appears to have been browbeaten into silence by a dictator known to have expelled foreign diplomats.

In 2007, Jammeh expelled the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) Resident Representative who was also Coordinator of the U.N. Systems in the country for questioning Jammeh's claim of discovering the cure for HIV/AIDS. Three years later, in 2010, the UNICEF Representative was also expelled from the country without the regime providing reason.  Previous to these expulsions, in 2001, the United Kingdom's Deputy High Commissioner was expelled from the country for attending an opposition coalition rally.

With the presidential elections less than 40 days away, the atmosphere in the capital city of Banjul and within official circles resembles more like business as usual than Jammeh's fifth attempt as being crowned president in what will be his most difficult re-election campaign yet.

The Independent Electoral Commission's official website has been out of commission for several months.  Telephone calls go unanswered, inquiries ignored and doors to the Commission's offices are closed on Fridays in observance of a 4-day work week even when it's weeks away from one of the most important elections in Jammeh's political career.  These are all signs of unpreparedness in addition to the Commission's budgetary woes.

Unlike Jammeh, who has remained silent and away from public sight in 4 months, the opposition parties have been busy in negotiations to form a coalition around a single candidate to face Jammeh in December.  Some of the opposition parties, including the Independent presidential candidate, have even managed to conduct country tours to rally their respective supporters,- all of which have riled Jammeh and ruffled his feathers.

According to sources, the threat of a unified opposition has caused Jammeh sleepless nights.  Sources have also indicated that the surest way of Jammeh to postpone the elections is if the opposition parties succeed in rallying behind a single candidate.  Jammeh has been losing support all throughout his 4th term in office which has accelerated after the formation of the Gambia Democratic Congress by a former member of Jammeh's ruling party.