Justice Minister outlines plans with Political Parties for Electoral Reforms set to conclude in August 2019

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By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

Context

According to the Justice Minister, Hon. Baa Tambedu a meeting was convened with all ‘registered political parties in the country’ in February earlier this year to outline ‘a consultative inclusive and consensus seeking approach’ towards progressing amendments of the Elections Act of 1996. Gainako readers will recall that in the run up to the historic 2016 December 1st Presidential Elections, Gambian Opposition Parties came under the banner of Gambia Opposition for Electoral Reforms (GOFER) and submitted a set of recommendations for Electoral Reforms to the Independent Electoral Commission.

Shortly after that, former dictator, President Jammeh progressed his own set of Electoral Reforms in Parliament which included ‘on the spot counting’ and the increase of nomination fees for political candidates to register. Some say this move probably contributed to rallying the Opposition under the new banner Gambia Coalition 2016. Just over two years after the fall of Yahya Jammeh, then Gambian Opposition which propelled President Adama Barrow to victory has still not managed to progress electoral reforms.

Fast forward to May 2019, a quietly jubilant Justice Minster faced the media for the first time this year, having just returned from an official trip to the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights summit in Egypt where The Gambia submitted its first Human Rights report since the AFPRC overthrow in 1994. This was a good time to face the Gambian media and the Minister did not forget to remind the press that the report was submitted ‘for the first time since 25 years’ and that his Ministry had also submitted ‘the Gambia’s initial report on the protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women otherwise known as the Maputo Protocol.’

A Modern Democratic Electoral Law

On the issue of electoral reforms Hon. Baa Tambedu insisted that the electoral reforms are meant ‘to reflect a modern democratic practice and ensure a transparent credible and level playing field for all actors in the political arena.’ Gambia’s Electoral Laws are clearly outdated for the modern times. One of the areas which the Gambia’s Electoral act does not cover includes electoral financing.

The Gambia’s electoral laws are not clear on the limitations to electoral financing and for Political activities. Are political candidates restricted from receiving funding from external sources? Will there be any penalties for candidates found wanting? If so will it be a fine, the revocation of a candidate’s registration, a combination or the complete elimination of a candidate? Are Independent candidates expected to play by the same rules? And are Political Parties expected to declare their source of funding?

You can listen to the press briefing by the Justice Minister on Electoral Reforms on the SoundCloud link below.

Electoral Reforms Program

Outlining the program agreed with Gambian Political Parties he highlighted that ‘I convened a meeting of all the registered political parties in the country here at the Ministry in February this year as a first step towards a consultative inclusive and consensus seeking approach. It was agreed at that meeting that All Political Parties will conclude internal party consultations on the provisions of the current elections act by 31st March 2019.’ By the date when the Minster had convened this press conference all Political Parties should have at least reviewed the Electoral Act of 1996 to conclude consultations with their party members and leadership.

‘That they should then convene under the Auspices of the Inter Party committee to identify common positions by 30th April 2019 and then a final joint workshop will be convened under the Auspices of the Ministry of Justice by 31st August 2019 to finalise the review process and to start working on the amendments immediately after.’ Gainako will be making an effort to follow up with both the Political Parties and the Minister at his future press briefings with the media. Will Gambian Political Parties follow through with the electoral reforms?

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