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Waves of 2016 presidential election

May 28, 2015, 9:51 AM

It is little more than 12 months to another presidential election in The Gambia, but already there are pointers to an interesting poll come 2016.

The United Democratic Party (UDP), the largest opposition party in the country, recently completed a tour of the country; the incumbent APRC has just completed a multi-purpose tour, and now is the turn of the opposition Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS).

The UDP’s recent caravan tour attracted large turnouts in all the places visited by the party executives. Party members, stalwarts, sympathisers and residents of the places they visited expressed strong support for the UDP and showed their commitment and resolve, this time around, to vote in a UDP-led government for The Gambia.

Then came the tumultuous turnout during the Vision 2016 Agricultural tour of President Yahya Jammeh. There were large crowds behind the APRC throughout the tour across the length and breadth of the country.  It was massively impressive and seemingly a foregone conclusion.

The ongoing PDOIS congress ahead of the 2016 election, on the other hand of the political divide, has also shown very large turnouts for another opposition party, sending shock waves that The Gambia is heading for a show of political strengths, bravery and valour in the impending election next year.

All this put together shows that there is strong contention in the air towards and in the 2016 elections.

But, meanwhile as preparations are ongoing, all we are calling for is a peaceful, free and fair electioneering and polling day. And in this connection, the Independent Electoral Commission has a critical role to play.

They must be seen to be fair, independent and objective in all their dealings just like their job requires. They must make sure that all the parties have the space and the platform to sell all their political agenda to Gambians.

National resources must not be abuse by any party for political gain. Civil servants must not be coerced to show allegiance to any party during election or risk termination and dismissal.

Having said that, if the wave in the sub-region is anything to go by, incumbent presidents in the sub-region are not defeated by any single political party. The recent historic election in Nigeria is fresh example; Buhari was able to win the incumbent Goodluck thanks to the support of other opposition parties. 

The same story is true of our next-door neighbour, Senegal. Macky Sall was able to unseat the old pa, Wade, because of the support of the other political parties.

This should serve as a lesson for the state of affairs in The Gambia.

The year 2016 is going to be a very interesting year in the political scene of The Gambia, hence no one should be a bystander; we all should be active participants to make sure that we have an eventful but peaceful election.

“Elections matter, but how much they matter depends entirely on how free, open and fair they are.”

Elliott Abrams