Gambia’s President Adama Barrow jumpstarted the electoral reform process, primarily seeking to reduce nomination fees ahead of parliamentary polls, Special Adviser Halifa Sallah said.
Gambians are heading to the polls in April to vote for their lawmakers and campaigning starts next month.
The Inter-party Committee will be meeting to start work on reform that saw a senior opposition member Ebrima Solo Sandeng killed in April 2016. Sandeng led a handful of people at the Westfield Square campaigning for electoral reform leading to his arrest and torture-death.
Gambia’s APRC-backed parliament amended the electoral regulations increasing nomination fees for presidential candidates by 1000% for presidential contenders. The change in regulations saw the nomination fees for those seeking parliamentary office from D5,000 ($125.00) to D50,000 ($1250.00).
The changes, which were quickly signed into law by former President Yahya Jammeh targeted opposition groups, which had meager financial resources.
The APRC, which was in power until December last year is now the main opposition party and does not have the financial backing to contest parliamentary polls. The party had relied heavily on taxpayers’ money to run for office.
Its members are likely to lose all their support after Jammeh’s exit. Their party leader has left the state treasury empty and support for the party has dwindled.
The law was condemned by Gambians as discriminatory to the poor, who would be denied the opportunity to seek office, in a country where a majority earn less than $500.00 a year and 75% of rural dwellers living on less than a $1.25 a day.
The electoral reform bid will see the axing of audit and financial reportage of political parties to the electoral commission, giving political parties full access to the national media and extension of campaign periods.