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Retired US Senator on democracy, free and fair elections

Oct 19, 2010, 2:22 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Fred C. Whiting, a visiting retired United States Senator for South Dakota, who is in The Gambia for a short visit courtesy of the United Sates Embassy in The Gambia, yesterday began a week-long lecture series targeting different institutions and people in The Gambia.

In his first lecture, held at the University of The Gambia (Brikama Campus) to the students, Senator Whiting focused on Federalism and the US Elections, especially the impact of the youth vote in the 2008 US elections.

Speaking to journalists in a post lecture interview, Whiting underscored the importance of free and fair elections.

"In order to ensure free and fair elections, you need to build competitive choices of authorities, and when you talk of democracy the voices of the people must be heard and represented. People should vote for the right choices of candidates," he said.

According to the visiting former US Senator, everyone has the right to vote in any democratic country, noting that it is not democracy that when you vote for your choice or party you are intimidated.

On democracy and good governance, the former US Senator stated: "United States is working on democracy and good governance for the past years in Africa. Africa has a lot of time to work on democracy. I see a lot of progress in Africa towards true democracy."

He noted that the youth can make absolute changes in the political scene in Africa, as they are determined and energetic, adding that those youths need to be motivated so that they can be active in politics.

Advice for Africa Leaders.

"Some African leaders do not recognise democracy, the freedom of press and freedom of expression, which are the cornerstone to true democracy. African leaders should really know what true democracy is. I think many African leaders do not recognise freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and right to education, which is degrading," he opined.

Whiting stated that democracy is not an easy thing, as it needs a lot of ingredients. The problem, he went on, is that too many people enter politics and democracy which also deals with how to build economies.

Also the former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Whiting called on Africa leaders not to overstay in power.

"African leaders need not to overstay in power, because this is a big challenge and problem many countries are facing," he said, adding that it is always a constitutional right for every citizen to vote in a democratic society.

Giving reference to the US legislators, he said they at the US Senate do go to their respective communities every week and discuss with their people, and report back to the senate, where their concerns and plight are tabled.

Whiting, who is now a political and economics consultant for the US department of state and the US chamber of commerce, also told journalists that the youth vote has a great impact in President Obama's campaign, stating further that 52 % of the youth in the US voted.

"It is necessary to have democracy, rule of law and good governance, which also ensures free and fair elections. An independent electoral commission, accountability and transparency also ensure free and fair elections," he added.

Meanwhile, the visiting former US Senator will today deliver a lecture at the American Chamber of Commerce building situated along Kairaba Avenue on the topic: "Why should you join the Chamber of Commerce - What is in it for you." 

He will later in the day proceed to the Gambia Press Union, where he is expected to give a lecture on the"Role of Media in the US Elections".