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Opposition Leaders meet to discuss united front

Sep 2, 2011, 1:40 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Leaders of various opposition parties in the country Saturday met in an undisclosed location in the Kanifing Municipality to discuss, among others, the possibility of forming an opposition alliance in the best interest of Gambians, sources at the meeting have disclosed.

Our source, who does not want to be named, said the meeting, which has come barely three months before the presidential elections scheduled for 24th November, was “born out of the persistent calls from Gambians for the opposition parties to come together ahead of the polls”.

“Yes, you are right that the opposition parties have met at a venue in Kanifing to discuss the possibility of an opposition alliance, but I can’t tell what the actual outcome of the meeting was,” our source said.

According to the source, Saturday’s meeting which brought together key political party leaders, was the first and will be followed by similar meetings at least two to three more times.

Our source also told this paper that there were series of consultations among women leaders of various opposition political parties.

“Consultations are ongoing, and the womenfolk of all political parties are also embarking on the campaign for the united front after they all agreed that there is a dire need for an alliance,” the source added.

The November presidential election, which will see incumbent President Yahya Jammeh seeking a fourth term of office, will bring together what analysts say is a fragmented opposition, whose members have no option but to unite in order to pose a threat to Jammeh’s ruling APRC.

A total number of 837, 029 (Eight Hundred and Thirty Seven Thousand, Twenty Nine) people have registered to vote in the November polls, showing a massive increase since the last elections’ figures, which was 670,336 registered voters.

President Jammeh, 46, has won three consecutive past elections. In 1996, he polled 220,011 (55.7%); in 2001 he polled 242,302 votes (52.96%); and, in 2006, he swept the polls winning 67.33% of the total votes cast.

He has vowed not to engage in any election campaigning, and promised that the elections would be free and fair.

“Gambians are very grateful people, and they are development-oriented. We are going to teach the opposition a lesson – for all the oppositions in Africa that oppose progressive development-oriented governments.

“This will be the final forty days charity for opposition in this country. I have been swearing and, of course, there will be areas that do not want development – they can vote for the opposition – that’s their problem,” Jammeh said recently when the first family got registered as voters at State House.

Also in a recent interview with this paper, Ousainou Darboe, leader of the opposition United Democratic Party, said he would not rule out the possibility of an opposition alliance ahead of the forthcoming elections.

“I did not hold it against any party leader for expressing his intention to contest the election under his party ticket, because I believe that they all formed parties in order to contest elections,” Darboe told this paper.

The UDP leader, however, said there exists the possibility of an opposition alliance.

Hamat NK Bah, leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) holds a different viewpoint with regard to forming an opposition alliance.

“I will be a candidate in the 2011 Presidential election, and will not be in any opposition alliance with anybody, where I will be led into an election; instead I will lead my party into the 2011 election. I will be a Presidential candidate and my name will be on the ballot box come the 2011 election,” Bah said in a recent interview with this paper.

He added: “I’m not interested in any opposition alliance, because I have invested so much effort into a political alliance, and I have realized that the partnership of calling an opposition alliance in this country is not genuine, and I don’t want to be in any situation that is not genuine. There is more hatred; there is a lot of hatred within the opposition circles than outsiders may think,” the NRP leader added.

For Henry Gomez, leader of the opposition Gambia Party for Democracy and Development (GPDP), he has no problem with forming an opposition alliance, but only if veteran leaders give chance to new and emerging opposition leaders.

In his view, leaders like Ousainou Darboe, Halifa Sallah and Hamat Bah should give chance to young and emerging opposition leaders because, as he put it, they had their chance before.

He told The Point newspaper in a recent interview that it is only new opposition leaders that can succeed in challenging the ruling APRC, come the November presidential polls.

Halifa Sallah, Secretary General of the opposition Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), also told this paper in an interview that even a month in politics could shape the whole destiny of a people, if the right decisions and actions are taken.

“The subject of establishing a united front is not a new idea. We started our campaign for a united front three years ago. There is no doubt that many people support the holding of a cross-party primary which is the surest way of guaranteeing cross-party voting for a candidate,” he said.

According to Sallah, the reason they subscribe to a united front is because of their realisation that the results of the 2006 elections reveal that voter apathy has gripped the Gambian electorate. 

“In short, over 270,000 people saw the APRC, UDP and NADD, but did not vote at all. Hence those who did not vote at all are in the majority, and could have made any one to be President of the Gambia. These people did not vote for the major ruling party or the major or minor opposition parties,” he said.

This, he added, was why PDOIS said that they should put the parties and personalities aside, and proceed to mobilise those people so that they would move away from their political apathy and take an interest in voting.