May 3, 2012, 1:59 PM
The 1997 Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia gives rights to all eligible citizens to vote, and be voted for in any national election.
In the same vein, people are free to choose either to contest elections under a party ticket or as independent candidates.
We must make it very clear that it is not a crime for any individual who wants to stand as an independent candidate to do so.
Consequently, no candidate should allow himself or herself to be threatened or intimidated, if he or she decided to contest as an independent candidate in any election in this country.
Having been successfully nominated as independent candidates by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), they were given the authority to fight for the seats they are contesting for.
It is wrong for one to call oneself an independent candidate, yet at the same time your words, actions and symbols are associated with a particular political party.
It is possible, however, for someone to vote for a particular party’s presidential candidate during the last election, then change his or her mind and vote for an independent candidate in the National Assembly polls.
It must also be made categorically clear that voting for opposition is not a crime, and it is for the IEC to all register political parties in this country are equal in the eyes of the constitution and other election laws.
Democracy is all about people’s ability to make a choice, and to choose their leaders or representatives freely, without being forced or dictated to.
We have a right to belong to different political groups, and that does not make those opposing a ruling party less patriotic citizens.
This country belongs to all of us, and a person or community must not be penalized, and be denied the benefits of government development efforts, because one is deemed not to be supporting the government in power.
It is not in the interest of the Gambian people for us to now start adopting policies and practices which will retard our march towards genuine democracy.
One way to do so it to ensure that there is a level playing field in the political arena in this country.
Indeed, in any nation where true democracy prevails, the political environment must be conducive for the conduct of a healthy political competition and fair elections.