Basse — The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has described area councils as the 'foundation of democracy'.
Mustapha L. Carayol was speaking recently at the Governor's Residence in the Upper River Region (URR) as part of his nationwide sensitisation tour in preparation for the April 4th Local Government Election.
He also described the upcoming election that will usher in new councillors and mayors as 'very significant'.
Addressing the meeting that brought together key local government authorities in the region such as members of the Technical Advisory Committee of the URR, chiefs and alkalolou, amongst others, Carayol expressed his appreciation for the turnout, which he said indicates their sense of patriotism.
"The Local Government Election is coming and some Gambians don't take it as something serious. But let me tell you that this election is as equally important as the Presidential and the National Assembly elections," he emphasised.
Commenting on issues relating to eligibility, the IEC chief made it clear that any Gambian who is 21 years can contest for the polls. He hastened to add that the aspirant must pay all his or her rates and taxes or make satisfactory arrangements and get Income Tax Clearance Certificate in order to contest in the election.
"Area councils are the foundation of democracy, thus, we have to turn out en-mass and vote. The government has injected lots of money into the election," he added.
The IEC chair urged the electorate to maintain peace and stability during and after the election, while assuring of his office's continued commitment to ensure that there is free, fair and transparent election.
"If anyone comes to your village to campaign for a meeting please allow him or her and make sure you don't force him or her out to avoid creating a problem," he advised.
The IEC chairman also disclosed that up to 650 lost voter cards have been recovered by their officials, and urged those who lost their cards to go and check it at the IEC regional office in Basse as there will be no supplementary voter registration this time. He urged the alkalolou and chiefs to disseminate the information to the grass roots.
The governor of the (URR), Omar Khan, harped on the importance of the election, and urged the electorate to turn out en-mass to exercise their franchise.
The ceremony ended with a question and answer session on issues relating to the successful and hitch-free Local Government Election.