Gambia: Political Parties Say Section Requiring Them to Disclose Their Sources of Income Should Be Deleted From Election Bill

Political parties at the Inter-Party Convergence held on Friday and Saturday have proposed that a section requiring them to disclose their sources of income should be deleted from the Election Bill.

They also suggested that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should set up a legal department and stop going to the Attorney General Office for legal advice.

This in the view of the political parties would ensure the independence of the IEC. The contributors said going to the Attorney General Chambers for advice undermines the independence of the Commission [IEC].

The political parties have jointly reviewed the Elections Bill 2020 on Friday and Saturday at the Inter-Party Convergence held at a local hotel in Kololi.

The Inter-Party Committee is a body that stands to bring all political parties in The Gambia under one umbrella with the view of fostering peace, tranquillity, tolerance and political decency.

It is stated on page 6 of the Bill" enacted by the President and National Assembly" which the parties suggested should read "enacted by the National Assembly and assented to by the President."

Section 4 of the Bill provides the powers and functions of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Subsection 2 (g) provides "the Commission [IEC] is responsible for issuing permits for political rallies, in consultation with the Inspector General of Police." The political parties said the Police should only be informed and not consulted. They suggested "the Commission is responsible for issuing permits for political rallies, and informing the Inspector General of Police for necessary security arrangements."

Section 15(b) of the Bill states "A person shall not be entitled to have his or her name entered or retained on a register of voters if he or she is serving a sentence of imprisonment."

The parties also agreed that prisoners should be allowed to vote, adding the eligibility requirement should be as far as you are a Gambian you have the right to vote and no one should be discriminated.

The political parties suggested "every Gambian of full age and with sound mind shall have the right to vote without distinction."

The politicians said section 15(d) contradicts section 12A of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.

Section 12 A of the Constitution reads: "A Citizen of The Gambia who acquires the citizenship of another Country may, if he or she so desires, retain his or her citizenship of The Gambia," while section 15(d) of the Bill states "A person shall not be entitled to have his or her name entered or retained on a register of voters if he or she subject to [section] 12A of the Constitution, a person whose name is entered on a register of voters in any other country or territory."

The political parties are with the view that the right that the Constitution accords people which is to retain one's citizenship should be upheld. They are with the view that the Bill seeks to take away this right denying dual citizens from voting when the Constitution does not make such provision.

They opined that the Bill should conform to the Constitution and thus, section 15(b) of the Bill should be deleted and there should be no discrimination.

Section 109 (5) provides "A political party shall declare to the Commission, its income and assets and their sources." The political parties said that part which requires them to state their sources of income should be omitted."

The Bill provides under section 147(1) "Where an issue arises relating to electoral matters which is not addressed by this Act or any other law, the Commission [IEC] shall resolve the issue in keeping with standards and rules of natural justice and fairness."

Subsection 2 of the same provision provides "A decision of the Commission with respect to an issue arising under subsection 1 shall be final and shall not be called into question in any court of law."

In their view, the provision of 147(1) should read "Where an issue arises relating to electoral matters which is not addressed by this Act or any other law, shall be referred to the judicial authority for advice and guidance." They said subsection 2 should be deleted because IEC should not be let to decide all by themselves and impose it on them.

The political parties want section 154(2) to be amended. The section provides "The Commission may make rules generally for the better carrying out of the Provisions of this Act." They want it to read as "The Commission may make rules generally for the better carrying out of the Provisions of this Act, and shall in particular make rules in consultation with the Inter-Party Committee."

The Bill seeks to introduce the Office of Executive Secretary, but parties agreed that the offices of the Executive Secretary and that of the Chief Electoral Officer should be one.

The political parties recommended that the IPC should be made a statutory body. Also, they recommended for the IPC to have the mandate to make reservation on the appointments of Commissioners of the IEC. They recommended that there should a Boundaries Commission, adding it should be institutionalised.

The IEC were tasked to come up with a system which will not tolerate double registration of voters. The political parties want the IEC to come up with a more efficient voter registration in order to avoid double registration of voters.

The review of the Bill couldn't finish on the two schedule dates and a new date will be communicated. At the end of the review, what they agreed on will be the position of the Inter-Party and all political parties are expected to speak in one language.

Foroyaa will bring you the full position of the IPC on the Elections Bill.

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