The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has revealed that the sum of D19M has been budgeted for April 4th, 2013 Local Government Election.
Alhaji Mustapha Carayol made this revelation during an exclusive interview with this reporter at his office along the Bertil Harding Highway Monday.
On the outcome of his recent nationwide sensitisation tour, Carayol said it was very successful, as the district elders and authorities were happy for being informed about the election. "They understood what is going to take place on the 4th April so that when they go back they will call their alkalolu and talk to them and the alkalolu will also go back and talk to their various villages so that they will know that the Local Government Election is slated for 4th April 2013," he remarked.
Carayol disclosed that the nomination for the election will last three days (14th March to 16th March), while the public scrutiny will last for a day (17th March) and it is meant to look at all the documents. He said that if one has any query he/she can do so.
"Reconciliation of campaign programme will be for two days (18th to 19th March) because we don't want two candidates to meet up in one village. Campaign period will be for 14 days (20th March to 2nd April) and cooling up day is one day for reflection on what has happened during the campaign period, and election day is on the 4th April," he added.
The IEC chair said polling starts at 8am and closes at 5pm while the counting will be done on the spot. He advised village heads not to stop anyone, stressing that any Gambian has the right to contest for the election. He also urged the people to allow candidates to hold campaigns in their villages, while reminding them that no one is allowed to put on a party colour during voting.
"Let's do the election peacefully. The Presidential and Parliamentary elections were peaceful and so I want this one also to be peaceful," he urged, while calling on Gambians to come out in their numbers and participate in the election.
"Gambians don't respect local government election and that's why when you watch the television, you see me sensitising the people and my staff are also going round sensitising the people so that we will have a successful local government election this time," he further remarked.
Carayol said so far people have been taking nomination forms all over the country. He said the APRC has taken about 114 nomination forms, while NRP too are on it, having taken about 20 nomination forms last week. He added that a lot of independent candidates are also taking forms.
Asked about the level of preparedness of the IEC for the election, Carayol assured that the Commission is fully ready. He said that they have all the necessary materials and there are leftovers from the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. "We are on full alert and immediately after the nomination we will recruit our staff because we cannot recruit staff when we don't know how many seats will be contested," he further stated.
When asked to comment on the importance of the election in The Gambia's democratisation process, the IEC boss said the function of the councils is very important, as they are responsible for the provision of public taps and wells, markets, street lights, car parks and garages, recreational facilities, public toilets, rubbish collection, provision of feeder roads, as well as provision of scholarship to needy and deserving students among others.
He also assured that there will be a level playing ground for all the parties, as it was in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. He stressed that all the elections conducted by the IEC are free and fair.
He urged all political parties in the country to contest the election, reiterating that the local government election is very important when it comes to grass-roots democracy.
His words: "Parties need to get at least a few councillors who will be on the ground for them for the next five years so that before the next election, at least they will prepare the ground for them, but you are a political party with no member in parliament and council. Let them all come out and contest and as the IEC did during the Parliamentary election, we are going to pay all agents of candidates."
Carayol urged the people to come out and vote, then return to their homes and listen to the radio or watch the television for the results, stressing that it is not necessary for one to stay at the polling stations. "We don't want crowds at polling stations because the agents for candidates will be there and they will do everything and the results must be signed by the agents before it reaches the chairman for final pronouncement," he said.
On the eligibility to contest for the local government polls, Carayol said one is eligible to contest as a councillor if he or she is a Gambian, 21 years old, and is able to pay a deposit of D1250, whilst for the mayoral election, one must be a Gambian, 30 years of age and be able to pay a deposit of D2500.
He added: "Let them not forget if you want to contest for the election, you have to get your clearance certificate from Income Tax, without that you have to declare your assets and if you are wise when you fill your form go to the nearest IEC office for them to check it before nomination day so that you will not get any problems on that day."