By Binta Jaiteh
The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) for election have recommended and called for the amendment of the electoral law to conduct the Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Government councils elections together due to the fact that elections are very expensive to conduct.
Speaking during the presentation of the final report of CSOs Coalition on the Mayoral and Chairmanship elections held at TANGO. Hannah Foster presenter of the report said this will encourage high voter turnout and civic responsibilities of the citizenry.
She stated that Democracy is a system that generates and promotes divergent views for it to continue to improve itself, and consequently produce development, peace, and security.
She re-echoed the recommendation made in the previous elections regarding the political participation and representation of women as a signatory to regional and international instruments coupled with the existence of national laws and policies that seek to promote equality between men and women.
“Given the low level of women’s representation mainly due to patriarchy and conservative socio-cultural beliefs, the CSO Coalition reiterates the following recommendations that a national legislation establishes gender quotas in politics that allocate a percentage of nominations and seats in the National Assembly and Local Councils to women as measures that seek to increase women’s representation,” she reiterated.
More so, she said, there is a need for intensive and continuous civic education by the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) to enlighten Gambians especially young people about the importance of elections in national development.
The quality of leadership and governance in the country, she noted, rests squarely on the level of citizen participation, still on the issue of low voter turnout, there is every reason to believe that part of this abnormality lies in the public’s lack of or limited trust in politics, elected politicians, and democratic institutions such as the Executive, the Legislature, and local councils.
Other recommendations by the CSOs, as she disclosed, is the issue of access to polling stations especially for persons with disability, polling stations placed on higher levels without a ramp, polling stations whose curtains were found to be not complete, transparent, polling station to be occupied by only officially accredited persons.
Touching the IEC, she said, the tenure of the IEC Chair has been engulfed in controversy since 2017, adding the recent announcement that the term of the Chair has been extended to 2025 has raised more concerns.
“We wish to call on the Government to therefore review and address this issue with urgency to protect the credibility and independence of the IEC and the integrity of elections. In this same view, we are disturbed by the lack of legal reforms surrounding elections. We are even more concerned that for many years now the Election Bill has not been passed at the National Assembly.
“The issues of attestation, diaspora voting, campaign financing, and the timing and the combining of elections such as councilor and mayoral/chairperson elections among other issues are all pertinent to achieving high voter turnout, the attainment of free and fair elections and the upholding of the rights of all Gambians,” she added.