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Opposition divided over Local Gov’t elections

Mar 5, 2013, 10:56 AM | Article By: Baboucarr Senghore

Ahead of the forthcoming Local Government Elections, opposition parties in the country are yet to agree on a common position regarding whether to contest the polls.

While the NRP has confirmed their participation in the polls come what may, the PDOIS, which is part of the Group of Six opposition parties, has decided to withhold their participation till a mediation effort by American civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson is instituted to iron out differences between the Group of Six and the Independent Electoral Commission.

Jesse Jackson, seen as a close friend of President Yahya Jammeh, last September facilitated the presidential pardon of former information minister Amadou Scatred Janneh, and former director-general of Immigration Tamsir Jasseh, who were jailed for treason, during a visit to Banjul, when Jackson also held talks with President Jammeh.

Hamat Bah, leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party told The Point in a recent interview that his party does not believe in boycotting elections, and will go all out to contest the election of councillors for the 114 wards across the country.

“We are constrained by resources, but we will do whatever it takes to participate and we will sponsor as much candidates as possible to contest in all the councils in The Gambia,” Bah told The Point.

When contacted yesterday, Halifa Sallah, Secretary General of the opposition Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), said PDOIS is part of the Group of Six and also group of opposition parties that wrote to Reverend Jesse Jackson to invite him to be a mediator to facilitate a level ground for multi-party contests in the country.

“We are waiting for his mediation efforts to begin and, in that respect, PDOIS as a party would not ask any of its members to participate in any election prior to this mediation efforts,” Sallah told The Point.

In a press release issued yesterday, the Independent Electoral Commission reminded political parties that nomination of candidates will be held from Thursday 14th to Saturday 16th March 2013 between the hours of 8am and 4pm at the IEC regional offices across the country.

According to Sallah, the IEC has not consulted them on this matter before issuing the press release.

In the press release, the IEC said the candidates will be attended to in the following manner: Thursday 14th March APRC candidates between 8am and 4pm; Friday 15th March NRP candidates between 8am and 4pm; Saturday 16th March PDOIS and independent candidates and candidates from any other party.

Though the UDP was not mentioned in the press release and its leader Ousainou Darboe could not be reached at the time of going to press, an insider at the UDP said as a member of the Group of Six, the UDP will go by any decision taken by the Group.

“The reason(s) we boycotted the last National Assembly elections has not yet been met and unless we meet as a party first and then as a Group, we cannot say whether we will contest or not,” the UDP insider told The Point.

If news of yet another opposition boycott is confirmed, political analyst said it is likely that the ruling APRC party will again dominate the municipal and area councils in the country, as they have done with the National Assembly, where it enjoys an overwhelming majority since the advent of the Second Republic.

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