By Sarjo Camara-Singateh
Mr. Alieu Momarr Njai has assured the election observer community that the counting of the results would be on the spot and the media has a role to play by transmitting the process as it unfolds.
The Independent Electoral Chairman made this statement at the briefing of observers on Monday 3rd April 2017 at Paradise Suites Hotel ahead of the 6th April parliamentary elections, which was well attended by both local and international elections observers, (ECOWAS, AU, EU ) to name a few. He indicated that his institution’s motto is Fair-play, Integrity, and Transparency; that polls will open at 8am and close at 5pm, but if voters are in the queue at 5pm they should be allowed to vote. “Our electoral system is second to none in terms of its transparency, credibility, fairness and accuracy. NO ONE CAN RIG IT!!!” He noted that spot counting will be witnessed by IEC officials, party agents, polling agents, donors and observers.
“During this session, our able officers here will demonstrate to you the whole voting process, from A – Z. You will then see for your very-self come Thursday 6th April during your visits to the various polling stations country-wide that our voting system is fool-proof; tamper-proof and rig proof! COUNTING IS DONE RIGHT THERE AND THEN ON THE SPOT! The Media therefore have a pivotal role to play in this very crucial exercise by transmitting the process as it unfolds”.
He said during the four days in which the nominations were held, 239 candidates were nominated and one has since withdrawn. There are 886,578 registered voters and 1,422 polling stations in the country and the breakdown is as follows: Banjul Administrative Area, 35 polling stations, 22,731 voters; Kanifing Administrative Area 287 polling stations, 199,957 voters; Brikama Administrative Area 427 polling stations, 281,115 voters; Kerewan Administrative Area 183 polling stations, 101,717 voters; Mansakonko Administrative Area 90 polling stations, 49,198 voters; Janjanbureh Administrative Area 207 polling stations 116,675 voters and Basse Administrative Area 193 polling stations, 115,185 voters.
Njie remarked, “One Hundred and twenty-two Assistant Returning Officers have been hired to work in the 53 constituencies countrywide. Counting will be done at the polling stations at the close of polls. There are seven collation centres. Five thousand four hundred and sixty-two polling staff will be contracted to man the polling stations”.
Mr. Njai stated that the Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission is established under Chapter 5, Section 42 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia, and it is mandated under the Constitution and Electoral Laws with: the registration of political parties; the conduct and supervision of the registration of voters for all public elections and referenda; the conduct of the Election of a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker; ensuring that the dates, times and places of public elections and referenda are determined in accordance with law and that they are publicized and elections held accordingly; and the Commission shall announce the results of all elections and referenda for which it is responsible. He noted, “The results of each of the 53 Constituencies must be collated at each of the 7 Administrative Areas before being announced by the Returning Officer and transmitted to me for announcement over GRTS. I cannot therefore announce any other result different from the actuality”.
The IEC Chairman, Njai noted that the IEC since its inception in 1997 has conducted four Presidential elections, three National Assembly elections and three Local Government elections and several by-elections for the National Assembly and Local Government. The fourth National Assembly Elections under the IEC’s purview is slated for Thursday 6th April 2017.
The IEC chairman said presently, there are nine registered Political Parties with the Commission and they are: Alliance for Patriotic Re-Orientation and Construction (APRC), United Democratic Party (UDP); National Convention Party (NCP), National Reconciliation Party (NRP), People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOlS), People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Gambia Party for Democracy and Development (GPDP), Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) and Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC).
He also acknowledges the support made by ECOWAS, UNDP and the European Union as it has come at a time when help is really needed.