#Article (Archive)

Worrying political developments

Mar 14, 2012, 11:56 AM

The matter of the non-participation of opposition parties in the scheduled National Assembly polls is of concern to all patriotic Gambians, and friends of The Gambia.

Ideally, in a healthy multi-party democracy, elections should be held routinely, and participation for registered political parties should be automatic.

We have been following developments in the political arena, and have seen and heard the declarations of the opposition parties, including their calls for leveling the playing field, so as to give all candidates an equal chance to participate in a free and fair contest. 

The response of the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, which is the referee in contests for political office, is public knowledge.

We are also aware of the decision of the majority of the opposition parties not to take part in the parliamentary election on March 29.

Consequently, the IEC has gone ahead with the nomination of candidates, and already half of the elected seats in the National Assembly have been given to APRC candidates, who were nominated unopposed and therefore declared duly elected by the IEC.

No need for voting in the affected constituencies, come Election Day. That is the rule!

Voting will be held only in constituencies where there will be a contest – and going by the IEC’s releases, this will be in 24 constituencies only, out of the 48 constituencies.

It is likely that the ruling APRC party will continue to dominate the National Assembly, where it enjoyed an overwhelming majority since the advent of the Second Republic.

This will be ensured by the latest move of the party leadership, as widely reported in the press Tuesday, which has announced the expulsion of dissenters within the APRC party, as well as denounced and renounced the so-called “Independent APRC” candidates.

Yet what this latest action highlights is perennial intolerance, which is characteristic of the ruling APRC party.

This development is also another instance of the ruling APRC government shooting itself in the foot.

Imagine, amidst all the talk about the need for electoral reform, and its repercussions as seen in the election boycott by the opposition, we hear the Office of the President carrying on with such a press release.

Indeed, the latest press release broadcast Monday by GRTS and published Tuesday in the main newspapers, provides more fodder for critics of the government.

We see and hear about actions which any right thinking person knows are contrary to the constitution and Election laws of the Gambia.

We see actions which could be interpreted as flouting the constitution our politicians have sworn to respect and defend.

We see politicians and public officers behaving in ways which appear to contradict the letter and spirit of their oaths of office, even though abuse of office and abuse of power is frown upon by the constitution and other laws of The Gambia.

It is our view that APRC press releases should not come from the Office of the President State House, but should emanate from the APRC Bureau located at Kanifing South.

It is also our view that such press releases should not be issued by the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service at the Office of the President, but by the Administrative Secretary or the Chairman and Party Leader of the ruling APRC through the party’s bureau.    

We are making these assertions bearing in mind that the motto of The Point is: “Freedom and Democracy”.

Thus we have committed ourselves to promote and defend human rights and good governance in this country, and in the world.

Anything perceived to be inconsistent with this position is troubling, and a source of grave worry to us.

In our view, those who disregard the rules must be held accountable, and be called to account.

Since we are talking about registered political parties and the conduct of national elections, the IEC is the public body that has the responsibility to address these matters.

It has a duty to take action against those who openly and deliberately flout the agreed rules of the game.

There are rules in party politics, and those involved must abide by accepted norms of behavior, if they want to be respected.

This also brings up the matter of whether or not some of our registered political parties are not being run as if they are owned by one person.

It is important that all registered political parties are seen to be structured, and to be functioning as truly democratic institutions, since this too is required by the country’s election laws.

Here, again, it is the IEC which has a responsibility to ensure that this is so, and to sanction or penalize any political party whose management is deemed to be undemocratic.

If the IEC is not able to carry out its mandate, then the proper thing for the chairman and commissioners to do is to call it quit.

Finally, politicians and IEC members must remember that society, history and finally the Almighty Allah will judge them for their actions and inactions.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”.

Oscar Wilde