By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has rebuffed claims that President Adama Barrow’s National Peoples Party’s (NPP) failure to hold a congress will invalidate over forty National Assembly candidates up for elections on Saturday 9th April 2022. Speaking at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center on Wednesday 6th April 2022 at an Election Observer Briefing, IEC CEO Sambujang Njie responded to calls from two Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to invalidate the nominations of NPP Parliamentary candidates.
On 4th April 2022, two Diaspora CSOs namely Right 2 Know (R2K) and the Gambia Democratic Union of Activists (DUGA) wrote a letter to the IEC Chairperson to “immediately suspend the NPP for at least six months (as was applied to other parties for the same infraction) for violating the Elections Amendment Act”.
The letter also called for the Commission to “immediately declare all approved applications of NPP candidates for the 2022 National Assembly elections null and void”.
The press release further reminded “the IEC that in 2016, it disqualified The National Democratic Action Movement (NDAM) and the Gambia Democratic Party (GDP), for the same infractions” and raised the question of “why the IEC would not also show consistency and apply the rules and regulations on other parties that have also flouted the Amendment Act”.
On the morning of the Election Observer Briefing, the Standard Newspaper had written an article on the same issue to which the Commission was not willing to respond.
Gainako Reporter, Yusef Taylor: [After asking his first question on the number of youth candidates, Gainako’s Reporter asked about the NPP Parliamentary Candidates] With regards to the NPP, two Civil Society Organisations have pointed out that the NPP hasn’t held a congress. What is the IEC’s position on that? It’s affecting the NPP parliamentary candidates, some forty of them? They said the candidates’ nominations are not valid if their party has not held a congress? END
IEC CEO Sambujang Njie: [After providing a detailed response to the first question on youth candidates Mr Njie noted that] On the call for the NPP whether it will have any impact on the Candidates we are saying no. Thank you. END
The short response left our reporter scratching his head, at least an answer was provided. The question-and-answer session continued until the IEC Communications Director brought it to an abrupt end. Communications Chief Pa Makan Khan refused to allow the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) from answering questions on two occasions.
Gambia Participates Executive Director, Marr Nyang: [After asking his first question Mr Nyang directed his second question to the DIG] One question I have for the DIG is there was also a report of critical incidents on March 10th in Busumbala. So, I’m not sure if your officials do report to you in Busumbala where both your security officers were injured and that of citizens. If you do receive that report how far have you gone with the investigation? END
IEC Communications Chief, Pa Makan Khan: Sorry Mr Nyang, I think as we mentioned let’s focus on national assembly elections. DIG I think this is not the platform to answer that. Thank you. Next! END
NewGambia Magazine, Sheriff Janko: [After asking his first question on voters not found on the voter’s list, Mr Janko questioned the Police’s heavy-handedness when dealing with demonstrators] We have seen at the Presidential elections how the Riot Police behaved, throwing tear gas at the celebrators at Kairaba Avenue. Whether Police cherry-pick issues and where they throw gas?
IEC Communications Chief, Pa Makan Khan: Anyway, just to tell you that this is not the right platform. Let’s talk about elections right. Let’s talk about elections.
Mr Janko attempted to respond by saying “but I think it’s part of the elections”, but he was quickly silenced after passing the mic on to the last person to ask a question. Mr Khan from the IEC took control of the event when he directed that “let’s get the mic here please. Our last questions, please. It’s like we’re running out of questions. So maybe we can bring this to an end right”. END
After the last question was asked about the community of Panchang the briefing was brought to an end by the IEC Communications Chief, Mr Khan who chaired the Observer Briefing. In answering the question IEC CEO told Observers that “it is not a press conference for the Police but rather an Observer briefing of the IEC for Observers. Yes, I will not go into certain things that are security I will go into things that are elections”.
CEO Njie proceeded to answer the first question from Mr Janko on voters not finding their names on the voter’s list and the final question about voters at Panchang. After his responses, Communications Chief Mr Khan brought the briefing session to an end.