Following a brief post election respite, independent presidential candidate Hamat Bah has said that the participation of fraudulent voters and their accomplices in the campaign and voting process gave added impetus to fraudulent voting and thus undermined the genuineness of the Presidential Election.
Bah, who lost to Jammeh in the 24th November presidential polls after he contested as an independent candidate under the banner of the opposition United Front, was speaking at a press conference convened by the United Front at the Peoples Centre in Churchill’s Town yesterday.
The objectives of his statement, he said, are to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the system by weighing practice during the presidential elections against the benchmarks established by law and standards of best practice; make a pronouncement on the genuineness of the 2011 Presidential elections, and further propose remedies if the facts on the ground so dictate.
He told journalists that no effort was done by the Independent Electoral Commission to combat the impact of fraudulent registration of voters, stressing that if that was done, many who registered in a fraudulent manner would not have dared to come and vote.
Abuse of incumbency
Dilating on a wide range of points, Hamat Bah said a free and fair election is conceivable if the voter is free from any form of inducement or intimidation, and the candidates have equal access to put their programmes before the people without any hindrance.
“The incumbent has utilized the state media to perpetuate the view that the election is not about candidature, but a competition between regions regarding which region would have the highest percentage of votes in order to earn recognition for development to be brought to them,” he stated.
According to him, despite the fact that the IEC chairman has gone on tour to tell chiefs, regional governors and the village headmen/women not to interfere with the electoral process, so as to have a more level playing field to give rise to genuine elections, no impact has been registered on that score.
“The business community did not hesitate to provide transport, T-shirts, football gears and other campaign materials to the youth wing of the party, which constantly went on tour and was given support by regional governors and district chiefs thus giving them an air of official recognition,” Bah added.
He noted that the state media also served to give the impression that there were no go areas for the opposition, and that the opposition was dead.
“Green flags and billboards of the incumbent were put in public places. The convoys of the president accompanied by heavily armed military personnel moved with breakneck speed across villages and towns, thus giving the air of supremacy of the incumbent,” Bah stated.
The Election Observers
Independent candidate Bah acknowledged the concerns by members of missions sent by the UN, The Commonwealth, ECOWAS and the European Union in determining what role they could play to nurture observance of the rule of law, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, good governance and a democratic culture in The Gambia.
“We have reviewed the pre-electoral and post electoral statements of the Commonwealth, the AU, the EU and ECOWAS. Despite the tone of the reports, whether couched in diplomatic language or not all corroborate the fact that inappropriate constitutional, institutional and normative practices are in place which militates against the holding of free and fair elections,” Bah told journalists.
He added reports by the different missions have seen the need to open the media to diverse political views, separate party and state so that the public servants, army personnel and other public servants would consider themselves to be servants of all the people without regard to any party affiliation.
The Independent Electoral Commission
Noting that the Commission focuses mainly on the registration and voting process, the United Front flag bearer said outside the campaign period, it has no control over the state media in promoting freedom of political expression or the law enforcement agencies in terms of promoting freedom of political assembly.
Bah said it is high time for the Electoral Commission to acknowledge the abuse of incumbency before the whole world, as it is unable to check and control the millions the APRC party is receiving from the business community, foreign and Gambian, as well as public enterprises for party affairs.
“The Office of the Vice President is openly used to receive funds for the party. The Commission has witnessed the executive accusing the opposition of receiving money from embassies, and has seen GRTS staff up to the rank of Directorate, being made to translate and transmit derogatory remarks against the opposition,” he stated.
He added that the tendency of the Commission to be rash with the opposition to the point of threatening disqualification for the independent candidate, while the constitution and election laws especially on party financing are broken left, right and center with impunity confirms that the IEC needs to be further empowered to enable it to create the climate for free and fair elections in the country.
Commenting on the side of the media, Bah said programmes initiated by Teranga FM as well as those initiated by Malick Jones of GRTS radio did facilitate debate among parties.
“The print media did also contribute to the dissemination of divergent views. RTS TV also assisted in promoting divergent views in the Senegalese media, which the APRC tried to use to promote its agenda,” he said.
Concluding, Bah said despite the fact that the United Front had and could have had more than 73, 060 votes, it humbly submits that they made a great effort, but time and resources did not permit them earn outright victory at the Presidential elections.
He added that the abuse of incumbency is so pervasive that no right thinking political figure would conceive it as legitimate to reward the incumbent by giving the election a clean bill of health.