By Ousman Saidykhan
The Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) informed the media and Civil Society advocates that the December 4th 2021 Presidential Election will be the last time Gambians will vote using the unique marble token system.
Gambians will go to the polls to elect their President on December 4th 2021 for the next five years. However, many were of the belief that the voters system would be changed from marbles to paper ballot but the Commission now says that the change will come into affect after the Presidential elections.
“We expect so many contestants and using these archaic ballot drums which will cost the IEC over two million dalasis (D2 million) just for the ballot drums. It is something that we really have to review and inshallah, this election is the last time we are going to use these ballot drums,” said Chairperson, Alhaji Alieu Momar Njie.
The Chairperson was speaking on Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 at a monthly consultative forum with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Media, organized by the Commission.
The IEC is an independent body mandated to conduct elections in the Gambia. After the conclusion of a six weeks voters registration exercise, the Commisison had issued a total of 962,157 voters cards. During the meeting the Commission announced that the voters register was not challenged at the revising courts.
There is a strong belief that the “low level” of literacy amongst Gambians may be a challenge for Gambians to transition to the Paper Ballot System. Many feel that the token marble system is unique and because Gambians are very accustomed to voting with marbles they feel much more comfortable voting with marbles especially after the 2016 elections ushered in a change in government.
This has made it a “no-go-area” for some people. However, the IEC Chairperson believes that Gambians are not the “dumbest” people to struggle to vote with the Paper Ballot System.
Chairperson Njie told delegates “we are not the dumbest country in the whole world. These (ballot drums) was introduced when literacy level was very low, but now, the whole world has gone to Paper Ballot and we (The Gambia) are the only one left. It is expensive. Basically, it is a nightmare, and the ballot paper should be introduced as soon as possible.”
Mr Njie said the transition to the Paper Ballot system is required, taking into account the proliferation of political parties and Independent aspirants in the country.
At the meeting, the IEC confirmed that there are eighteen (18) registered Political Parties in the country with four (4) potential parties to be registered and nine (9) Independent Aspirants.
In contrast to the 2016 Presidential Election when there were only three presidential candidates, however, there were a significant number of candidates who merged into the Coalition 2016 that defeated the incumbent President Yahya Jammeh for the Association for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) and Hon Mama Kandeh for the Gambia Democracy Congress (GDC).
The Chairperson of the commission assured delegates that the Commission’s independence was guaranteed and that the IEC will conduct free, fair and transparent elections as it did in 2016.
“As far as we are concerned, no person or authority can derail the system we have adopted. That is why it is going to be transparent, free and fair and there is no way anybody can influence the result of the election,” said Chairperson Njie.