October 9, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
FRAMEWORK FOR ADDRESSING ELECTORAL REFORM REACHED BY GAMBIAN PARTIES AND CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS
A common framework for addressing electoral reform has been reached by leaders of two major Gambian political parties and civil society groups ahead of The Gambia’s 2016 elections.
This followed intense discussions at the conclusion of the International Civil Society Forum on The Gambia held in New York from October 1-2, 2015 under the auspices of the Coalition for Change – The Gambia (CCG) and its partners. The deliberations featured Omar A. Jallow (OJ), interim leader of the People’s Progressive Party; Hamat Bah of the National Reconciliation Party; and representatives of various civil society organizations.
Though the issue of participation or boycott (if conditions are not adequately addressed) remained unresolved, participants agreed that:
- Opposition political parties should set minimum acceptable reforms to the electoral law that must be implemented ahead of the 2016 elections.
- Both the legitimacy of the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission’s mandate and all bills passed under his expired mandate must be challenged.
- Voter registration requirements, especially the attestation process, must be changed.
- The Gambia Government must ensure that all political parties have equal access to state media, and mechanism to track the abuse of state resources must be put in place
- The ruling APRC’s (Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction) use of state resources to promote partisan political objectives must end.
- The law that requires the Independent Electoral Commission to issue political rally permits should be amended, as permits should be issued by the Inspector General of Police in a fair and expeditious manner.
- The Gambian constitution should be amended to remove the 65 year age limit for presidential candidates.
- The state must cease the intimidation and harassment of the opposition parties and their supporters.
Both political party and civil society representatives concluded that all legal and diplomatic/political options must be fully utilized to ensure that The Gambia Government creates a conducive environment for free, fair, and transparent elections in 2016.
Given that there is a small window of opportunity to table and agree to acceptable electoral reforms ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in 2016 and 2017 respectively, civil society groups agreed to call on the international community and the country’s development partners to withhold funding the elections until The Gambia Government implements all the proposed minimal reforms unanimously agreed to..
Participants also reiterated the need to engage with political parties that were not represented at the historic New York meeting. Participants stated that all efforts must be made to seek input from all political parties.
Follow-up activities are planned to exert greater pressure on the Gambia Government to facilitate the full participation of all Gambians in free and fair elections.