Presidential candidate for the National Convention Party (NCP) praised the country’s electoral commission’s preparation efforts for the general elections in which Gambians are expected to vote for a new government.
Dr. Lamin Bojang said he is impressed with at least 90% of the work of the Independent Electoral Commission, which last week had a meeting with political parties informing them of important deadlines.
The electoral commission said it has registered about 900,000 voters and has demarcated some constituencies.
Bojang, who accepted the NCP nomination this month has called for a non-partisan independent candidate to lead a coalition. Not much has been coming from his party but his party is participating in coalition talks including a just concluded youth-led one.
Political activist Coach Pa Samba Jow who was campaigning for “no elections” before endorsing Dr. Isatou Touray said he still does not trust the electoral commission, especially after its announcement of registering nearly a million voters. He says there is a discrepancy with the numbers noting that the country has just under two million people.
“Voter registration process had been fraught with lack of transparency dating back to the 2001 election cycle, if not before. 90,000 new voters being added to the roll, representing an 11% increase from the 2011 figure raises a lot of eyebrows,” said Gambian economist Sidi Sanneh.
The Gambia has refused to release actual census data since 2013, only releasing provisional results. The country has seen a sharp increment youth migration to Europe.
“If the integrity of the voter registration process is doubt, the entire electoral process will be questioned. The IEC Chairman is giving us all the reasons needed to declare the entire electoral process rigged,” Sanneh said.
Electoral commission chief Alieu Njie has promised transparent polls.
The NCP has not announced its first public political event yet but it was once the country’s largest opposition party under the country’s first Vice President Sheriff Dibba in the 1980s.
Dibba later joined the ruling APRC in an alliance after coming fourth out of five candidates with 3.8 percent of the votes and a historic one vote in an entire constituency in 2001. He APRC alliance earned him the position of the speaker of The Gambia’s parliament with the NCP winning no parliamentary seat. One of it key supporters, Fabakary Tombong Jatta won a seat under the ruling APRC ticket and became majority leader.
When the party first emerged, President Sir Dawda Jawara underestimated its strength saying the party will cease to exist in three months. But from 1975, the party became his biggest nightmare until the military coup that oust his administration in 1994.
NCP slowly faded after the military regime banned it from politics. This coupled with the emergence of a new political party UDP that most of its members joined made the party history.
Dibba was dismissed from the parliament in 2006 after being implicated in a coup. He died in 2008.
For many, it remains to be seen if the firebrand that the NCP was will be reignited again.