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APRC names candidates for NA Polls, opposition calls for level playing field

Mar 5, 2012, 1:18 PM | Article By: Baboucarr Senghore

The ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) has announced the names of its candidates selected to run in the forthcoming National Assembly polls, replacing 13 and retaining 29 of its former parliamentarians.

The move saw the APRC replace its candidate in the biggest constituency in the country, Kombo North, and put in new candidates to contest the seats in Kiang West, Kiang Central, Jarra Central and Wuli West, all currently held by the opposition.

The announcement comes amid calls by the opposition Peoples Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) for the Independent Electoral Commission to put its house in order; to create a level playing field, and hold the type of election whose results the opposition would be proud to endorse.

“We had provided abundant facts to convince any honest person that no free and fair election could take place in a system where the ministers, governors, chiefs, alkalolu, green boys and girls, security personnel all utilise state vehicles, fuel and mobilise council resources and personnel to conduct propaganda against the candidate of  an opposition party,” Halifa Sallah, secretary general of the PDOIS told this paper yesterday.

The APR- led administration, he added, either by neglect or deliberate design has failed to look into the citizenship issue of many people who are born in The Gambia who are currently not seen as citizens.

“Fraudulent attesters assist them to get voters’ cards, but when they go to get ID cards they are rejected. A review of their birth certificates would reveal the letters NGP meaning Non Gambian Parents. Such people are always afraid to criticise policies,” he said, adding that “they are only daring and active when they side with the ruling party”.

According to Sallah, PDOIS has therefore come to terms with the need to call on the IEC to postpone the elections to a date that would enable a new chairperson to take over, proper voter education conducted on the time to vote and the counting at polling stations, ensure the naming and shaming of fraudsters who engaged in double registration or who were among the council of elders who attested to the forms of those whose names have been struck out by the revising court.

He also expressed PDOIS’s position that the IEC must bar the use of state resources and security personnel, governors, chiefs and other agents of area and municipal councils, which he said are utilised to the advantage of the ruling party.

Sallah also called on the electoral authorities to free all public and private radio stations and TV to operate as freely as they operate in Senegal and other countries, and to create a reasonably level playing field for a genuine multi-party contest.

“We took the Government of the first Republic to the African Commission on the issue of fraudulent electoral practices, and the current Government promised to address our concerns. They have not done so. We are, therefore, preparing a dossier for the ECOWAS court should we fail to reach a national consensus on electoral reform, before the National Assembly Elections,” he said.

Sallah told this paper that if the APRC is brave enough to concede to the postponement of the election; to ensure that the IEC is given a chairman whose tenure is not hanging on the goodwill of the person who should appoint members of the commission; and, further declares before the whole world that it would not use state resources and personnel to its political advantage, the opposition would contest every seat, and prove that its claim to unassailable political support is nothing but window-dressing.

Meanwhile, while there have been no changes to its parliamentarians in Banjul and the Kanifing Municipality, the APRC has replaced four of its parliamentarians in the Central River Region.

With only one replacement in the Upper River Region namely, in Jimara constituency, the APRC has also named Hon. Ebrima Solo Jammeh, an independent candidate in Foni Bintang constituency, as its candidate in the coming polls.

Also replaced in the West Coast Region is Hon. Abba Sanyang of Foni Kansala constituency, while Alasana Bojang in Kombo East constituency will replace the late Hon. Lamin Bojang, who passed away in April last year. Hon. Paul Mendy of Kombo South has also been replaced.

In the North Bank Region, the APRC replaced four of its parliamentarians and retained long-time parliamentarians Hon. Suku Singhateh, Lamin KT Jammeh and Ousman Bah of Lower Baddibu, Illiasa and Sabach Sanjal constituencies respectively.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, parliamentary elections will take place on Thursday 29th March 2012; and nomination of candidates will take place at the IEC regional offices across the country from Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th March 2012.

Campaigning, the Commission said, will commence on Wednesday 14th March and end on Tuesday 27th March 2012.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that out of a total of 53 seats in the National Assembly, the ruling Alliance Patriotic Reorientation and Construction has 47 of which 5 are nominated MPs.

The opposition United Democratic Party has only four seats, while the National Alliance for Democracy and Development has one seat, and one seat is held by an independent candidate.