By Kebba Jeffang
The European Union under the auspices of its chief observer deployed 14 Long term observers to all the 7 regions of the country to observe the April 6 National Assembly election.
The observers bade fair well before the mission’s chief briefed the media at an event held at a local hotel at Cape Point, in Bakau, on 22nd March.
This is the first full-fledged election observation mission deployed by the EU to observe the Gambia’s election.
Out of 14 observers who are from different EU member countries, two will be posted in each of the 7 regions of the country.
Mr. Miroslav Poche, chief observer formally opened the observation to wish the observers well as they set to take up their respective posts across the country. “You will personify the mission in the field and your consolidated findings will become an essential part of our overall assessment of these elections,” he told them.
He said prior to their deployment, the observers have received comprehensive briefings on a wide range of issues, including on the electoral process, political environment and media landscape.
Meanwhile, at the press conference, Mr. Poche said the mission’s deployment follows an invitation from The Gambia Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) noting that it is the first time that the EU deploys a full-fledged election observation mission to The Gambia.
The Czech national who is also a member of the European Parliament and 6 other international election experts are currently in Banjul.
‘Closer to the Election Day, the mission will broaden its scope of observation by deploying short-term observers, including observers seconded by the diplomatic missions accredited to The Gambia. A delegation of seven members of the European Parliament will also be integrated into the mission on a date close to Election Day. The EU EOM will comprise some 50 observers from EU member states, as well as Canada, Norway and Switzerland,’ he said.
“The 2017 Parliamentary elections are taking place in a new but still challenging political environment. The European Union Election Observation Mission stands ready to offer an impartial and comprehensive assessment of the electoral process for consideration by the authorities, political parties and civil society of The Gambia,” stated the Chief Observer. Mr. Poche.
He assured that the observation team will remain in the country in the weeks after the day of elections in order to also observe the complaints and appeals process. He said the EU EOM will assess compliance of these elections with domestic legislation as well as with regional commitments and international standards that underpin democratic elections.
He said the observers’ assessments will encompass a wide range of election-related issues, including the work of the election administration and relevant state bodies, implementation of the legislative framework, and the resolution of election-related disputes.
‘The mission will also observe campaign activities across the
country, and will carry out a comprehensive monitoring of the media. An integral part of an election observation mission is to meet electoral stakeholders across the board,’ he said.
Meanwhile, it was indicated that during his first visit to The Gambia, the Chief Observer met the IEC Chairperson, government ministers, representatives of domestic observers and political parties.
‘Over the weeks prior to the elections the core team analysts at the national level and the LTOs at regional level will continue to be in close contact with all electoral stakeholders including the greater public as such. The EU EOM operates in accordance with the “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation”, he assured.
Mr. Poche concluded by indicating that the EU observers will not interfere with the election process or any political affairs that may jeopardize the process as their only role is to observe and report.