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UDP leader takes IEC to task

Feb 28, 2011, 11:51 AM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

In the build-up to the forthcoming Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, Secretary General and party leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), has emphasized the need for the Independent Electoral Commission, (IEC), to speak out on its plans and preparations, especially with regard to the general voter registration.

In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Darboe said that since the IEC conducted a mock voter registration trial in the Greater Banjul Area to test the effectiveness of the proposed biometric voter registration, the UDP has not heard from the Commission again, noting that the UDP expected the IEC to commence voter registration since January this year.

"There is no doubt that the IEC is having funding problems, but we hope that this will be resolved so as to ensure the conduct of a credible voter registration, which will be made available to all the political parties.

"This is important because the credibility of any election rests on the credibility of the voter registration process. If that is credible and transparent, then one can begin the process of having a transparent process," Darboe added.

According to the UDP leader, those who said that the opposition will not make it in the coming elections are dreaming, as the opposition has the potential to effect change, as already demonstrated in Kiang and other parts of the country.

"The opposition does not have access to the state media. If we were having access to the state broadcaster, then the recent mass defection of over one hundred APRC supporters to the UDP should also be shown on television," Darboe added.

In Darboe's view, there is not only the possibility of an opposition alliance, but there is also a higher probability of an opposition alliance. "We have the ability to unseat President Jammeh in 2011, and we will do it," Darboe continued.

He told The Point that their agenda as a political party is different from their agenda as a government, adding that the agenda they have in order to capture the polls is to embark on a massive sensitization exercise.

"The IEC really cannot sponsor political parties. It is an umpire during elections, so it does not support political parties. It has no mandate to support or provide funding for political parties, and I do not think other IEC in other parts of the world have that mandate too," he went on.

The leader of the largest opposition party in the country underscored the need for a Democracy Fund for The Gambia, which he said was recommended by the former chairman of the IEC, Bishop Tilewa Johnson, adding that this will enable political parties to benefit from such funds.