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Will they or will they not?

Feb 15, 2016, 9:47 AM

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has issued a stern reminder to political parties in The Gambia to regularise their status or risk being de-registered.

The commission is reminding the political parties of the provisions of an Act that all the major opposition parties have condemned vehemently.

The Elections (Amendment) Act, 2015 requires that the executive members of all the political parties have to be resident in The Gambia.The IEC is now calling on the parties to furnish the commission with an updated list of their party executive members, apparently to confirm residency of members.

The Act also obliged the parties to have secretariats in each administrative region, and the electoral commission is as well demanding that the addresses of these secretariats must be provided not later than 31 March 2016.

In addition, the IEC has urged the political parties to submit a written undertaking to provide yearly audited accounts to the IEC.

The electoral commission warned that any political party that fails to comply shall be de-registered after the mentioned deadline.

The passage of the amendments that the IEC is enforcing has sparked widespread discussions by concerned Gambians, both at home and abroad.

The opposition parties were particularly swift in their condemnation of the legal changes.

For example, leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party, Hamat Bah, commenting on the submission of yearly audited account, inferred that they cannot submit their accounts when the party receives no subvention from the government.

Lawyer Ousainou Darboe of the opposition UDP has said the IEC has no business with how he spends his personal or family money for the operations of the UDP, emphasising that they are willing to comply provided the government gives them public funds.

Ahmed Mai Fatty of the opposition Gambia Moral Congress party, who heads his party from overseas, has said the residency requirement for all executive members of political parties, among others, offends a fundamental constitutional right to freedom of association.

Therefore, it is clear from the tone of the opposition parties that they may not meet what has now become a legal requirement of the electoral process.

The IEC as the superintendent of the electoral landscape has a duty to enforce the electoral laws.

In this conundrum, should the commission relax the enforcement of the amended Act, they will be violating their lawful mandate.

And should they enforce the conditions or provisions to the letter and spirit of the Act, they could be refereeing a political landscape with only one actor.

In spite of this, it should also be noted that a law remains to be law unless it is repealed.So, unless and until the provisions of the amendment are challenged in a law court and repealed, they remain part of the laws of The Gambia.As such, failure to comply with its provision is an offence.

In the event the opposition could not meet the demands and the IEC de-register the parties, it means only the ruling APRC party will contest in the December 2016 presidential election and the subsequent electoral cycle.

However, the opposition parties’ fulfilment of what is said to be stringent conditions means further setting a precedent that they are willing to subdue to any of such laws even whereas they have an option to challenge.

To conclude, the political game has started to reach a nail-biting point about ten months to the election.

It is incumbent on every sane Gambian to be a keen observer to see how it will end and who will win, or even whether it will be a nil.

“Do not seek to find a reason why elections are not possible. Seek to make them possible, and they will be possible.“

Ahmed Chalabi