By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
According to a leading campaign organiser of President Adama Barrow’s National People’s Party (NPP), their candidates for the upcoming National Assembly elections will not participate in any debates just like their party leader. President Adama Barrow declined to attend the Gambia’s first-ever Presidential debate in the run-up to the 4th December 2021 Presidential Election. However, that did not stop him from winning with an absolute majority.
In an exclusive interview with Mambanyick Njie of the NPP he confirmed that together with Seedy Njie, they were the main organisers for the NPP National Assembly elections campaign. It was very noticeable this week that NPP candidates had declined multiple invitations to debate other candidates during QTV’s National Assembly Election Debate.
Unsurprisingly, President Barrow, the NPP party leader set the ball rolling when he declined to attend the Commission on Political Debates (CPD) first-ever Presidential Debate on 20th November 2021. On that historic occasion, veteran politician Hon Halifa Sallah of People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) and independent candidate Essa Mbye Faal mounted the podium for a battle of ideas in the presence of a live audience and the media.
Although Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh of the National Unity Party (NUP) confirmed his attendance he failed to attend the debate. Mama Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and incumbent President Adama Barrow (NPP) completed the list of Presidential candidates that failed to attend the debate.
When asked to confirm rumours that Seedy Njie had banned all NPP National Assembly candidates from public debates, Mambanyick Njie replied that this was their policy. According to Mambanyick, this policy has been in effect since the Presidential elections, indicating that since President Barrow did not attend the CPD debate, NPP Parliamentary candidates will also not debate their peers.
The NPP Campaign Strategist confirmed that they currently have 40 National Assembly candidates vying for a parliamentary seat out of the available 53 constituencies. Looking at the list of confirmed Nominated candidates for the upcoming Parliamentary election it can be seen that NPP is not contesting any of the 7 seats contested by the APRC. They include the five Foni Constituencies, Jeshwang and Bundunka Kunda Constituencies.
Out of the forty candidates which are vying under the NPP ticket only two of them are women. With regards to youth, Mambanyick says most of their candidates are youth. However, it must be noted that at least six out of the eight UDP NAMs who defected to the NPP and running for re-election are not youth.
Meanwhile, the UDP has a total of six women candidates in the race for the 9th April 2022 Elections. When our reporter asked two party officials, including UDP Spokesperson Mr Almamy Taal and Hon Yakumba Jaiteh, both claimed that the majority of their candidates are youth.
Also in the news this week is the withdrawal of two independent candidates in Pa Lamin Sawo for Jeshwang and Abdoulie Barry for Kiang East. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also announced that the replacement of voters cards which started on 21st March 2022 will conclude on 27th March 2022. The IEC reiterated that “no new voter’s card will be issued during this exercise”.
Another developing situation that may impact the Parliamentary Elections is the Foni Crisis which has affected some ten (10) thousand Gambians as reported by the National Disaster Management Agency and the Office of the Vice President. Since Senegalese Soldiers clashed with MFDC Separatists in Casamance on the 13th of March 2022, the lives of thousands of Gambians have been affected and many have been displaced. Schools have been shut down in the Foni Region, disrupting the education of some seven (7) thousand students. This has forced the IEC to announce its intention to review elections plans for the Foni Region.
The Center on Political Debates (CPD) will be hosting National Assembly Debates on the 26th of March 2022 at Ndow’s Event Hall for the Serrekunda West Constituency Debate and 31st March 2022 at the Mayork SSS Hall for the Foni Bondali Constituency Debate. The CPD has already held a debate in Banjul for Banjul Central Constituency.