Sunday, July 21, 2019

IEC Chairperson Supports Paper System of Voting

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By Yankuba Jallow

The Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Alieu Momar Njai has stressed the need for The Gambia to do away with marble system of voting and replacing it  with the paper system.

In his statement, Njie said the IEC embarked on consultative meetings nationwide to sound the opinions of people with a view to changing some of the electoral laws.

He said the marble system was very expensive and it was introduced when the education level of the voters was low.

“With my experience from election observation throughout the world, I see no reason why we should maintain this archaic system of voting. It is a ‘nightmare’ system,” he said.

He said the paper system was more transparent, legible and flexible to use than the marble (token) system. Njie indicated that he has over 30 pending applications for the registration of political parties in The Gambia. He said if all these were to be registered by the IEC, then we must do away with the marble system because it was going to be too expensive.

“Right now, we have eleven (11) registered political parties although one is suspended. I have 30 applications pending and because of that it was really imperative to get prepared for the 2021 elections that may be contested by nothing less than 10 candidates,” he said, adding that there was a move all over the country to address voter apathy. He put forward that the paper system of voting would be more suitable if the presidential and the National Assembly elections were be held on the same day.

The IEC has held a two-day regional consultative meeting with the people of West Coast Region on electoral reforms in The Gambia.

The meeting was held at the Football Hotel in Yundum, West Coast Region from the 29th to the 30th June 2019 and it was attended by people from different areas including ward councillors, lady councillors, National Assembly Members (NAMs) including former NAMs, among others. The West Coast Region consultation was part of a nationwide consultation exercise conducted by the IEC covering all the regions in The Gambia.

The electoral body has engaged people on many topics including voter registration, elections and electoral system, campaigns, demarcation of electoral boundaries, registration and financing of political parties, among others.

The people of West Coast submitted that big constituencies should be demarcated into small ones; constituencies that have fifteen or more thousand voters should be demarcated. They proposed that each constituency should have a minimum of two wards. They agreed that the demarcation of constituencies should be done at least a year preceding the Presidential elections year and it should be reviewed every 10 years.

They put forward that demarcation should be done by the IEC.

The participants also put forward that for one to acquire a voter’s card, the person should produce one of the following documents; birth certificate, national identity card or passport. Also, they were divided on whether prisoners should be allowed to vote or not, but they unanimously agreed that Gambians in the Diaspora should be allowed to vote and as well contest in elections.

They submitted that voter registration should be done 6 months before elections while replacement of lost voters’ cards should go up to a month before elections.

They put forward that public scrutiny of candidates should be three (3) days after their nomination while the campaign period for presidential election to be 21 days.

They also suggested that during elections, the IEC should be responsible for issuing permits to political parties to hold their campaigns, rallies among others.

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