Tuesday, June 6

CSO Coalition on LG election report highlights low turnout of youths

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By Binta Jaiteh

Civil Society Organization (CSO) on Local Government Elections report has highlighted that the turnout of youths was very low as observed and also accessibility for wheelchair users was a challenge at some of the polling booths.

Speaking on Saturday at the Paradise Suite Hotel, Senegambia before counting of the votes, Ndegen Jobe, member of the steering committee who presented the report said in most of the observed polling stations, persons with disabilities, pregnant/breastfeeding mothers, and the elderly were either assisted or given priority to vote. 

He said in most of the observed polling stations, women constituted the majority of voters; overall the voting process was generally peaceful and calm.

According to her, in the Election Situation Room on Government Elections for Councilors 2023, she said the statement on voting and closing of polls Voting in the 15th April 2023 councillorship elections opened and closed on the stipulated time.

 She added that, since the opening of polls at 8 am, our 130 elections observers that were deployed across The Gambia have observed the process of voting at their respective polling stations. 

In the voting process, she said, most of the observed polling stations were easily accessible and the proper procedure for voting was largely followed. In almost all polling stations, voting information was correctly displayed both inside and outside the station.

The team also noted that security was provided throughout the voting process in most of the polling stations observed as the police provided effective queue control. IEC polling staff and polling agents representing various parties and candidates were present in most of the polling stations.

However, the voting was conducted in secrecy, as required, and there was no shortage of voting materials. While there was a high presence of election observers, the media presence was largely low in the polling stations observed. Generally, only accredited persons were allowed inside the polling stations.

With regards to the closing of Polls, she said generally, polls closed at the stipulated time of 5 pm in most of the polling stations observed, IEC staff and polling agents as well as observers were present during the closure of polls. In almost 17% of polling stations observed, there were still voters in the queue at closing time and were allowed to vote as required by law. 

In addition, procedures for the close of polls were largely followed in most of the stations observed and polling agents signed off on the close of the poll report, indicating their acceptance of the procedure. Concerns, about the presence of non-accredited persons within polling stations and the display of party paraphernalia inside and around polling stations, although low, remain a recurring incidence in public elections. We observed isolated cases of party supporters canvassing votes around polling stations.

Furthermore, there was no significant interference with the voting process. Also, there were clashes in and around polling stations although these were put under control without losing any disruption to the voting process.

She concluded that the CSO Coalition noted, with deep appreciation the smooth and calm manner that characterized the vote. “we recognise and applaud the IEC, the police as well as observers, and the media for the effective way they carried out their respective functions to ensure a smooth and peaceful election. At the same time, we deplore the minor incidences around polling stations which, if not addressed immediately, could have caused significant disruption to the voting process. 

“For that matter, we reiterate our call for all electoral stakeholders to always exercise calm and address any grievances through dialogue and other peaceful means in line with the law.”