The president of Gambia's Independent Electoral Commission, Alieu Momarr Mjiar, announces presidential election results in Banjul, Gambia, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Official of Gambia’s unity govt threatens to sue electoral commission

A senior member of the Gambia’s unity government says he will be suing the electoral commission for not having the country’s state network broadcaster covering parliamentary campaigns.

Halifa Sallah, a Special Advisor to President Adama Barrow and leader of the PDOIS party said the commission should guarantee equal access to facilities and the media by all candidates ahead of next month’s parliamentary polls.

Sallah, who is seeking to regain his lost Serrekunda district seat, had his nomination covered by state broadcast network and as is hundreds of candidates in regional offices of the electoral commission during the formalization of their candidacy.

GRTS Director Ebrima Sillah said the network needs at least D3 million (US$ 75,000) to cover the campaigns of some 239 candidates in 53 constituencies. GRTS is virtually bankrupt with no commercials and revenue generating channels to cover the cost.

Sallah is ignoring the facts and says it is mandatory to have airtime given to the campaigns of all the candidates. GRTS is not covering any particular campaign and therefore not giving preference to any candidate over the other.

The state broadcast network had been used by the previous regime to relay its propaganda, turning viewers to watch mostly Senegalese networks and middle eastern channels through satellite. Airtime used by former President Yahya Jammeh and his government were not paid for and salaries for GRTS staff were paid for mostly by Gamtel and other state institutions, an official said.

Past Gambian elections were ruled by observers not to be free and fair because the government gave opposition parties little to no airtime, and edited critical part of their campaign messages while giving undiluted access to Jammeh and his surrogates, a practice that electoral commission chief, Alieu Mommar Njai stamped out.

Njai had refused to reverse his decision that Jammeh lost the polls even after receiving death threats and forced into hiding in neighboring Senegal, where President Adama Barrow was holed up during the political impasse.

Jammeh had unsuccessful petitioned the electoral commission at the Supreme Court to have the election results nullified, be declared the winner or for fresh polls be held, in which he seeks for some 300,000 voters, who he claim to be supporters of his party to cast their ballot.

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