By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Since the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced that only six presidential candidates qualified for the 4th December 2021 Elections, a significant number of failed presidential aspirants have endorsed at least four of the six presidential candidates.
The six presidential candidates who qualified for the Presidential Elections include the incumbent President Adama Barrow of the National People’s Party (NPP), Hon Ousainu Darboe’s United Democratic Party (UDP), Hon Mama Kandeh’s Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) Leader Hon Halifa Sallah, former Lead Counsel for the Truth Commission, independent candidate Essa Mbye Faal and Abdoulie E. Jammeh of the National Unity Party (NUP).
Out of the 26 presidential hopefuls who picked up Nomination Forms from the Commission only 21 aspirants submitted their documents to the IEC. According to the IEC’s press release dated 6th November 2021, five presidential aspirants had their Nomination Forms cancelled/withdrawn before the end of the Nomination process. The five withdrawn aspirants include three independents in Matthew Gomez, Tamsir M. Jassey and Mamadou Bah and another two parties namely the Gambia For All (GFA), led by former Vice President Bakary B. Dabo and the All People’s Party (APP) led by Dr Biram Jagne.
The first presidential hopeful to withdraw from the process was independent aspirant Matthew Gomez who failed to submit his documents to the Commission on the first day of the Nomination Process. To date, Mr Gomez has not yet declared his endorsement of any candidate for the upcoming Presidential Elections.
Throughout the Nomination Process, journalists questioned presidential hopefuls about their citizenship status. According to provision 62 (2) of the Gambia’s 1997 Constitution “a person who holds dual citizenship or nationality of a country other than The Gambia, shall not be qualified for election as President.”
However, this did not discourage a number of presidential aspirants including the only female presidential aspirant, Marie Sock who announced her dual American-Gambian Citizenship on Facebook. Another independent aspirant whose citizenship was questioned is Papa Faal who admitted to journalists that he also held dual American-Gambian citizenship. Yusupha Dumbuya of the Democratic Party (DP) and independent aspirant Tamsir M. Jassey were also questioned about their dual American-Gambian citizenship which they failed to refute.
Already, six failed aspirants have endorsed President Adama Barrow’s NPP which includes four independents in Tamsir M. Jassey, Mamadi KS Camara, Momodou Bah and Mamadou Bah. The remaining two endorsements are from Political Parties; namely GANU and ANRD led by Sheikh Tijan Hydara and Lamin Sutu Bojang respectively. It’s worth noting that President Adama Barrow’s NPP already enjoys the support of another five registered Political Parties who declined to submit Nomination Forms to the Commission. These include Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta’s APRC, Hon Hamat Bah’s NRP, Kebba E Jallow’s PPP, Hon Hendry Gomez’s GPDP and Hon Lamin Dibba’s NCP. This means that the NPP currently has the backing of at least eleven Political Parties and failed independent aspirants.
On the opposition front, UDP’s Ousainu Darboe appears to be building momentum after they enlisted the support of independent aspirant Marie Sock and GFA led by Former Vice President Bakary B. Dabo. Meanwhile, PDOIS’ Hon Halifa Sallah has enlisted the support of the APP, led by Dr Biram Jagne and independent aspirant Alhaji Mamadi Kurang. It can be recalled that during the Nomination Process APP’s Dr Biram Jagne first withdrew from the process after informing the Commission that they are now backing the Alliance for Change 2021. In subsequent days the APP Leader, Dr Jagne accompanied both Citizens’ Alliance Dr Ismaila Ceesay and PDOIS’ Hon Halifa Sallah when submitting their Nomination Forms to the Commission.
In the 2016 Presidential Elections, Hon Mama Kandeh’s GDC played a huge role in dividing the votes that would have gone to then-incumbent Yahya Jammeh’s APRC. It’s worth noting that Hon Kandeh, then of APRC, had defeated UDP’s Adama Barrow in the 2007 Parliamentary Elections making an intriguing rematch for the 2016 December Presidential race. The former APRC Parliamentarian was expelled from the APRC in 2013 and formed the GDC in 2016, taking a sizeable number of APRC supporters. This paved the way for current President Adama Barrow to win the Presidency, powered by the Coalition 2016 which included some seven Gambian Political Leaders.
GDC is also building an Alliance of its own and has managed to enlist the support of the No to Alliance Movement, a fringe group associated with the APRC that is against the NPP-APRC Alliance. The GDC has also enlisted the support of the Gambia Action Party (GAP) which is led by failed aspirant Alieu Sowe. GAP has been in turmoil as their former Party Leader Musa Yali Batchilly has now defected to President Barrow’s NPP. From a press release published by GAP, it appears that the former Secretary-General, Mr Batchiliy, has been dismissed for attempting to facilitate GAP’s endorsement of the NPP without the approval of his party supporters.
At the moment the remaining two presidential candidates in independent Essa Mbye Faal and NUP’s Abdoulie E Jammeh are set to contest the 4th December 2021 race to State House on their own. In another development that is sure to attract public attention, the Commission on Political Debates has organised a debate for all six presidential candidates scheduled for 20th November 2021. To date, only three candidates have confirmed their participation so far and this includes PDOIS’ Hon Halifa Sallah, NUP’s Abdoulie E. Jammeh and independent candidate Essa Mbye Faal. If President Adama Barrow participates in the debates it would make him the first sitting President to do so in Gambian history. GDC’s Hon Mama Kandeh and UDP’s Hon Ousainu Darboe are the other two outstanding presidential candidates yet to confirm their participation.
In addition to the aforementioned aspirants and candidates, some failed aspirants have refused to endorse any presidential candidate. Independent aspirant Ebrima Tabora Manneh held a press briefing on Thursday 11th November 2021 announcing that he would not endorse any presidential candidate. Fellow independent aspirants Bankie Yao Ahadzie, Papa Faal and Sheikh Matarr Nyang have also not endorsed any presidential candidate to date. The last presidential aspirant to submit their Nomination Form, Yusupha Dumbuya of the Democratic Party (DP) has also not confirmed his endorsement of any presidential candidate.
Still outstanding from the list of 21 aspirants who submitted their Nomination Forms to the IEC are two aspirants whose nominations were rejected by the Commission. The two rejected presidential hopefuls contesting the IEC’s decision to reject their Nomination Forms are the Citizens’ Alliance, led by Dr Ismaila Ceesay and independent aspirant Joseph Henry Joof. It’s understood that the two disqualified aspirants will seek redress from the Gambia’s Superior courts from Tuesday 16th November 2021. The Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) led by former Minister of Interior Hon Mai Ahmed Fatty also filed an appeal to the IEC to review their decision. It’s not clear if he’s also seeking redress from the Gambian courts.