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We Must all Exercise our Democratic Rights

Feb 2, 2009, 4:15 AM

Mr. Halifa Sallah, spokesperson of the opposition National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) who is also the director of the People's Centre for Research, Science and Sociology, has spoken in an interview with The Point over the weekend of voter apathy.

He told our reporter that in the presidential election in 2006, only 264, 404 voters voted out of a total number of 670, 336 registered voters. This figure will be very startling to many of our readers as it is so low. This was not the only case he cited however. He said that the APRC had 19, 078 votes while the UDP had 8, 412 in the KMC mayoral election, a percentage turnout of 21.4%. The turnout in Banjul during the mayoral election was 29.4%"

These figures are distressingly low. We can tackle low turnout in a number of ways. Firstly we must ask ourselves why people are not turning out to vote. There can be many reasons but among the main reasons is that people feel their vote will not make a difference for whatever reason. We must work very hard to address this belief. Democracy cannot be said to be functioning properly unless the people are taking a full part in the process of selecting their leaders through the ballot box. Ahead of the next election we must do all we can to address this issue of vote apathy. We must show people that engaging with politics is an essential part of their democratic rights and that they must grab the opportunity with both hands. They must be made to see that their vote can make a difference and that they are free to choose their own leaders through the exercising of their democratic right in the ballot box.

We can tackle this problem very effectively through education. Every child at school must be told of the enormous importance of exercising their democratic right at election time so that when they reach voting age they will vote and be full members of the democratic process.

We can address this issue if we really try and hopefully by the time the next election rolls round we will see a much higher turnout and the people of The Gambia will fully exercise their democratic rights.

"The people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people." [if supportFields]>tc ""The people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people." "

Daniel Webster

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