By: Kebba AF Touray

The Independent Electoral Commission, yesterday 6th February 2018, started the training of key actors in the political limelight of the country, at the NaNA Conference Hall.

The training which targets Political Parties, CSOs, the Security and the Media, aims to sensitize stakeholders on relevant knowledge and information needed for them to properly partake in the electoral process, particularly the forthcoming Local Government Elections.

Speaking at the opening, Commissioner Isatou Jallow Ndure said the IEC deems it necessary to sensitize stakeholders involved in the electoral process, with the objective of equipping them with the needed information and knowledge for their effective and proper participation in the process.

‘‘Political parties are known as the key or major actors and without them, there will be no election and without elections there will be no democracy”, said Madam Ndure.

She said the right to participate is a corner stone because it entails an obligation to guarantee that all citizens have the right and opportunity to take part in public affairs through parties and civil society organizations.

Commissioner Ndure described the campaign phase as a challenging time because parties and candidates compete with each other to promote their messages in an attempt to win over voters, which gives rise to tension between political parties, candidates and their supporters. She said women should be involved in politics as they make up at least half if not, more of the Gambian population. “If women are marginalized from full and equal participation in the political and decision making process, a country cannot be considered fully democratic”, she said. She appealed to parties and their candidates to put the Gambia first before personal interest; that the success of the country will give birth to the success of the citizenry.

“Therefore, let’s remember that election comes and goes, but The Gambia, its people and communities remain”, she concluded.

Commissioner Anthony Robert Secka on behalf of IEC Chairman Alieu Momarr Njai, said the Local Government Elections are slated for the 12th April and 12th May 2018 respectively.

“Following the re-demarcation of electoral boundaries in 2015, the number of Wards has increased from 114 to 120 and political activity would include a nomination period, which will be from the 13th to 17th March 2018. This will be followed by a campaign period from 21st March to 10th April 2018”, explained Commissioner Secka.

He added that election is often regarded as a complex process requiring the participation of a multitude of players, who perform numerous activities and processes which include election officials, government officials, local authorities, security, CSOs, media personnel, stake holder engagement, sensitization, training of personnel among others.

“This is because political parties are the lead actors in politics and the IEC sees all parties as equal either as parties in government or government in waiting. This ethos helps create a level playing field for all parties or candidates contesting in elections”, he noted.

He emphasized the significance of the Local Government Election through which representatives are tasked with provisions of basic facilities vital to the welfare and wellbeing of every citizen. He implored on all the trainees to fully participate in the training process since they will share the knowledge with their party colleagues and militants who would as well participate as party agents at polling stations and collation centers. Today is the turn of the security officers, he added.

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