By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Sambujang Njie told the media when the Elections Bill “was sent to Parliament there has been some serious errors in the Bill”. Mr Njie made these revelations at a stakeholder’s engagement with the Media and Civil Society Organisations today, 1st April 2021. Earlier in the day, the IEC held an engagement with Political Party representatives.
It can be recalled that the Ministry of Justice published a press release on Tuesday 23 March 2021 saying that “the First Schedule of the Elections Bill 2021 tabled before the National Assembly contains an inadvertent [sic] error”. The press release explained that “the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Ministry of Justice has been in contact with the Independent Electoral Commission and the National Assembly and this inadvertent error has been rectified.”
Announcing some of the latest appointments at the IEC, Mr Njie said that “Mr Pa Makan Khan has been appointed newly as Director of Training, Communications and Public Affairs at the Independent Electoral Commission. He substitutes Joe Colley who was the holder of the position until last month when he was appointed as a commissioner and Vice-Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission.”
Turning his attention to what he described as misinformation “circulating in town” he explained that “we want to clarify that information to you”. First Mr Njie clarified that there are currently only 17 Political Parties and more importantly that the Elections Bill that was tabled at the National Assembly on 22nd March 2021 had serious errors with regards to the number of constituencies.
Serious Errors on Ministry of Justice Elections Bill
Distancing themselves from the Elections Bill that was submitted by the Ministry of Justice the IEC CEO announced that “The IEC did not give that to the Minister of Justice” and that “the bill as it is presented to Parliament is the Bill of the Ministry of Justice”. “This is not from the IEC. We can inform you that when we completed the last validation with the Minister of Justice everything was given to them in order,” he said.
According to Mr Njie “what has been seen when it was sent to Parliament is that there has been some serious errors in the Bill.”
Explaining one of the main sticking points Mr Njie said “one of the issues when it came out last week. Was the demarcation of constituencies. Where it said 41 constituencies and we have 53 constituencies. It seems they have brought it up from the old elections decree which gives 41 constituencies. We cannot and must not downgrade the number of constituencies from 53 as they are to 41 that is not from us.”
The Ministry of Justice press release noted that “the first schedule contained in that Act which consists of 41 constituencies was inadvertently attached instead of the current schedule which contains 53 constituencies”. This means that the Ministry of Justice and the IEC are both singing from the same hymn sheet with regards to rectifying the number of constituencies.
Issues Agreed Not Reflected in Bill
Most importantly the IEC has commenced engaging the National Assembly over the Bill which Parliamentarians must approve before becoming law. IEC CEO Mr Njie says that the IEC “requested an invitation through the office of the Chair of the Select Committee on the National Assembly for the IEC, Ombudsman and Local Government so that we can sit together and complete this document before it is passed”.
Another observation highlighted that “some issues that were agreed upon are not reflected on the bill. The rest of the other issues we hope they will call us and we sit together and put them through because this was done in consultation with the stakeholder and the media was also represented and even the civil society. So, it would not be fair for them to proceed and what people have agreed upon is not reflected”.
It can be recalled that Gainako published an article on the stakeholder consultation where the Elections Bill was validated.
Only 17 Registered Parties
Another clarification made by Mr Njie is that there are “only 17 registered political parties. The last party that was registered before our last meeting [4th March 2021] was the Democratic Party. From our last meeting to date we did not register any political party contrary to media reports that someone has registered a new political party”.
Warning people announcing new political parties to desist he said “whoever is going in town saying he or she has registered a new party we are saying that is not correct from the IEC. The number of parties that are registered are 17 even though we know there are three that are being processed.”