Two opposition parties in The Gambia have un-ceremonially pull out of a coalition talk ahead of the country’s crucial presidential votes, an inter-party mediation committee said on Thursday, soiling hopes of an all party alliance to take on incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who is seeking to extend his 22-year rule.
The newly formed Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) and the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) said they had reservations with some of the clauses in the coalition agreement, which was at its advance stage.
GDC Press Secretary Alhagie Essa Jallow said part of the reasons his party pulled out of the talks has to do with funding and discrepancy over a large party clause.
“I don’t remember them all because I was not part of the delegation. One of them is about funding, the other is a clause that talks the largest party,” Jallow said.
Mediation committee chief Kebba Singhateh said the two parties pulled out with the GDC claiming to be the largest opposition party and should therefore have its candidate lead the coalition, but sources said a draft resolution sent to participating parties stated that the selected candidate must be a non-partisan candidate.
PDOIS had declined to participate in the talks, which were said to be youth-led.
PDOIS Leader Halifa Sallah has vowed to serve only one term if elected under a coalition but opposition leaders have been calling for a non-partisan independent candidate who be elected through a primary.
“The candidate must be presentable and saleable both nationally and internationally, has good moral and educational standing, come from a civil society group operating in Gambia and not affiliated to any political party, and meet the eligibility requirements,” Singhateh said.
Party-led coalition talks since 2006 have failed and it is not the first time NRP Leader Hamat Bah had pull out over leadership challenges.
Other opposition parties have two weeks to notify negotiators of their decision but sources said the UDP, NCP, GPDP and the PPP has all consented to the proposal.
The said talks are said to be different from an anticipated one with and does not involve independent candidate Dr. Isatou Touray.
(Reporting from Banjul; Writing by Sainey MK Marenah; Additional Reporting and Editing by Sam Phatey)
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report stated that three parties instead of two and PDOIS abandoned talks but the party did not send representatives to the months long mediation effort.