Gambia: IEC Urged to Set Up a Legal Team

1 December 2020

Sixteen Gambia political parties at the Inter-Party Convergence held recently unanimously suggested that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should stop going to the Attorney General's Office for advice by creating their own legal office at the IEC.

According to them, this would ensure the independence of the IEC is maintained, arguing that going to the AG's Chambers for advice undermines the independence of the Commission (IEC).

The political parties 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 put all political parties in The Gambia under one umbrella with the view to fostering peace, tranquillity, tolerance and political decency.

The parties suggested that page 6 of the bill should be "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 there must be no discrimination.

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

They further argued 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 that: "A political party shall declare to the Commission, its income and assets and their sources." The political parties said part of that requiring them to state their sources of income should be omitted."

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.

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