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Parliamentary polls free, but not fair - NRP

Apr 19, 2012, 1:58 PM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

The opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) has described last month’s parliamentary elections as “free but not fair”, alleging that civil servants including the secretary general and head of the civil service were seen canvassing and campaigning for the ruling APRC party, using state resources.

“Yes, ministers have rights to campaign because they are politicians, but they were using government resources to campaign, which is illegal,” party leader Hamat Bah said yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference held at the party’s bureau in Banjul, NRP leader Hamat Bah, who contested and lost in his Upper Saloum constituency, said the arrest of the NRP candidate in Sabach Sanjal constituency, who is currently being held in prison, leaves a lot to be desired.

“We believe that the election was free, because there was less intimidation with the exception of a few places in the Niamina West constituency, but it was not fair because civil servants were using state resources, which we do not have access to,” he added.

Bah, whose party broke ranks with the rest of the opposition parties that decided to boycott the polls, said his party participated in the election with the strong conviction and strong belief that it was a worthwhile move.

“There is nothing we could do in bettering democracy than participating in the electoral processes. The NRP does not believe in boycotting or not participating in election processes, because this has some very negative impacts in the development of democracy in Africa, particularly in this part of Africa; although people have a right to boycott or not to participate in elections,” he stated.

To him, the NRP which contested in eight constituencies, but won only one seat, is convinced that it was important to get into the election and fight for the seats, “so that the APRC party will not have an easy ride”.

While commending the Gambian electorate for the peaceful conduct of the polls, despite some hurdles, Bah said Gambians have demonstrated their desire to choose and to be part of the processes of electing a representative to their National Assembly.

“The NRP has the strong belief that if one does not participate in the electoral process, he/she will not be in a position to evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of that system, and also cannot measure one’s strength or level of support to forge and to formulate new policies and strategies as a way forward,” he explained.

Noting that his party has learned a lot during the parliamentary elections, Bah stated that it has also indicated to them that the NRP has support at the grassroots.

As a result, he went on, the NRP will be reorganized and transformed in the next couple of months, so as to get it better prepared for coming elections.

According to Hamat Bah, if all the opposition parties had participated in the election, the results would have been completely different, adding that the APRC party was scared of the participation of the NRP and independent candidates during the polls.

While also acknowledging that this was an opportunity they had missed, Bah expressed hope that the Independent Electoral Commission would learn lessons in the process.

He commended the IEC for introducing the on-the-spot counting of votes, which he said will ensure more transparency.