CSO Coalition on Elections The Gambia – Preliminary Statement: 12 April 2018 – Local Government Election in the Gambia

0

INTRODUCTION

1. The CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia, spearheaded and coordinated by the West Africa Network
for Peacebuilding (WANEP) – The Gambia is a home grown national platform established in 2006 to
facilitate civil society participation in elections, democracy and good governance. With a membership of
20 Civil Society Organizations, the CSO Coalition on Elections seeks to participate and influence public
policy through election conflict monitoring and election observation.

2. Within the framework of the 2016 – 2018 electoral cycle and for the purpose of the 12 April 2018 Local
Government Election, the CSO Coalition on Elections – the Gambia operationalized an Election Situation
Room (ESR) with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Gambia to
observe, report, analyse and facilitate responses to the peaceful conduct of the election.

3. A team of 30 Long Term Observers (community conflict monitors) were deployed nationwide to monitor
the pre-election context including the nomination process and campaigns. On Polling Day, 150 observers
were deployed nationwide to observe the opening, voting, closing and counting processes in the 118
wards contested. There were no elections in two wards, Kusamai and Kachang, because the nominated
candidates went unopposed.

4. The CSO Coalition on Elections – the Gambia’s assessment is based on regional and international principles
and standards underpinning the conduct of democratic elections and the Elections Act of the Gambia.
In this regard, the CSO Coalition on Elections – the Gambia wishes to submit its initial observation report based
on reports obtained from our conflict monitors and domestic observers. This report also highlights concerns and
recommendations on the election and related matters.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
• Pre election
. Nominations
The nomination process was relatively peaceful and stable with no incidents of violence observed. Aspiring
candidates were vetted by the IEC as prescribed by Section 42 of the Elections Act to ascertain their eligibility to
contest

Campaign
The campaign period was generally peaceful; however inciting languages were observed including hate speeches and discrimination against women by political actors. Use of state resources in the form of vehicles was also observed in the campaign.

Monitors observed the lack of adequate security provided to campaigns in most cases. Similarly, incidents of
clashes between political parties at rallies were observed which also aggravated the political situation.
• Polling day
o Opening

Majority of the polls observed opened at the designated time of 0800 hours and basic opening procedures were
generally complied with in a peaceful atmosphere. Observers reported that most of the polling agents were
present at the opening however, the absence of some of these agents was also noticed. Although the entire
process was calm there were isolated incidents in some wards that were eventually contained through the
intervention of the police and the IEC and other stakeholders.

o Voting
The voting process was observed to be generally peaceful and orderly. Generally voting materials were
adequately available at polling stations. Physically challenged voters were assisted to cast their ballot. Polling
agents have been observed to provide assistance to voters to enable them exercise their franchise. There was
adequate and visible information available to enable the voter to conveniently locate his or her voting station and
vote most of the time. The absence of the media and election observers in most of the polling stations visited was
also observed. The voter turnout was generally low. Observers did not notice the presence of unauthorized
persons within polling stations.

o Closing
Generally, polls closed at the designated time of 1700 hours. In many polling stations, it was observed that some
basic procedures were not fully complied with such as the immediate sealing of ballot drums. Some of the ballot
drums were tied with metal wire and not with seals.

o Counting
While basic counting procedures were observed to have been generally followed, observers noticed that some of
the Presiding Officers also failed to fully comply with certain procedures. There were no unauthorized persons
inside counting centres. There was enhanced security presence around counting centres. Counting went on
peacefully.

CSO GENERAL OPINION
In light of the above observation, the CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia is of the opinion that voting on 12
April 2018 for the Local Government Elections in the Gambia was free, fair and transparent. There were no
significant anomalies or malpractices by either the political parties, candidates or their supporters or the IEC to
impugn the credibility and legitimacy of the vote. For that matter, we certify that the results reflect the will of the
electorates. We, however, note that elections in the Gambia could still be further improved as highlighted in the
following Concerns and Recommendations.

CONCERNS
1. Voter turnout has been observed to be low and in many instances observers noticed more elderly voters
than younger voters.
2. Civic education continues to be limited generally hence affecting popular participation in elections.
3. The incidence of hate speech, incitement to violence, gender stereotyping and tribalized narratives were
observed in many instances during the campaign.
4. The incidence of the use of public resources has been a perennial problem in elections in the Gambia.
5. Observers have noted in few instances that Presiding Officers were not fully compliant with voting
procedures.
6. Accessibility to voting centres and booths for persons with disability remains a challenge.
7. While Election Day went off generally peaceful, incidents of violence were recorded between supporters
of the United Democratic Party and Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction in Talinding,
Kanifing Municipality.

Recommendations
In light of the concerns raised, the CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia offers the following recommendations to the IEC, Political Parties, The Gambia Government, Electorates, the Police as well as the general voting population:
1. There is need for the sensitization of citizens on the importance of elections in the overall good governance
and development of the Gambia. There must be consistent and continuous civic education to that effect;
2. Voter registration should be a regular and consistent process to ensure all eligible citizens obtain voter’s
card and prevent the disenfranchisement of voters;
3. Political leaders and candidates should serve as role models and gatekeepers for the promotion of
peaceful, free and fair elections;

4. Civil Society Organizations should increase their participation in the electoral process to promote citizen
engagement and ensure that all stakeholders uphold the principles and standards of democracy and good
governance;
5. There is need for donors and development partners to engage in a timely and sustainable manner to
support the electoral process in the Gambia;
6. There is a need to further strengthen the capacity of IEC’s polling agents to ensure strict adherence to
electoral processes;
7. The unfair use of public resources by political actors must be discouraged and discarded;
8. IEC must ensure that it continuously improves the positioning of polling centres and booths in order to
ensure easy and direct access by persons with disability;
9. The IEC must enforce its Code of Campaign Ethics to ensure fair play, peaceful campaigns and fair
elections;
10. There is need for the Inspector General of Police to ensure effective and adequate security during political
campaigns to prevent violence.

CONCLUSION
The CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia recognizes and appreciates the dedication and professionalism
generally exercised by the IEC leadership and polling agents. While there have been some issues of noncompliance at polling centres due to capacity challenges, the IEC has demonstrated due diligence and
responsibility in the conduct of the vote. Similarly, the CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia wishes to
commend the Gambian security services on election duties for their professionalism in ensuring the peace and
order.

The CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia further wishes to recognize the immense role the Gambian
media played in the run-up to the elections. Above all, the CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia commends
the Gambian electorates for exercising their constitutional right to participate in the election, peacefully. Finally,
the CSO Coalition on Elections – The Gambia hereby urges all Gambians to come out in their numbers to vote in
the 12 May Mayoral and Chairperson elections.

Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply