Omar Cham, Speaker of the National Youth Parliament
By Landing Ceesay
The Election Watch Committee (EWC) has said that party agents “vigilantly” monitored the entire election process in the recently concluded Chairpersons and Mayoral Elections.
The Election Watch Committee (EWC) is a partnership of seven organizations with different expertise and backgrounds that collaborate to observe electoral processes in The Gambia. The organizations are Peace Ambassadors-The Gambia (PAG), ACTIVISTA, National Youth Parliament (NYP), Think Young Women (TYW), Beakanyang, Peace Hub – The Gambia (PHTG), and The Gambia Federation of the Disabled (GFD).
The Electoral Working Centre (EWC) held a press conference to update the public through the media about their observation of the recent election. The conference was held after the conclusion of the election and the official announcement of the results by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
“Party agents vigilantly monitored the entire process including set-up, voting, closing and counting. Nearly all observed polling streams had at least two-party agents present during the voting, closing, and counting processes; more than half of the polling streams observed had more than three party agents present.
“EWC observers noted that party agents from all major political parties and independent candidates were present throughout the day at polling streams observed. Party agents did not present an objection to the Close of Poll report or to the counting of ballot tokens in any of the observed polling streams,” Mr. Omar Cham, Speaker of the National Youth Parliament, told the media.
Mr. Cham further told the media that the EWC deployed 14 regional coordinators to observe the collation process at the 8 IEC Regional Collation Centers. All EWC observers and party agents were permitted access, and other observer groups and media were present at about half of the centers.
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“The collation process was not postponed or interrupted at any time in any collation centers observed by EWC. Generally, the IEC officials followed the collation procedures in all the centers observed. During the collation process, there were a few instances of discrepancy reported, which were resolved by the IEC Officials. While party agents were present at all collation centres, some observers noted that some party agents did not wait for the completion of the collation process and thus did not sign or collect the collated results form at the end of the process,” he told the Journalists.
Despite acknowledging the efforts of the party agents during the election process, EWC in their recommendations urged political parties to equip their agents very well. Ms. Forster said for future elections, Political Parties and Candidates should ensure that their agents are properly trained on election procedures and understand their role in observing the voting and counting process.
Cham said the IEC should publicly provide polling stream level results in a machine-readable format in a timely manner as a measure of transparency.
He said it includes the results from the presidential and National Assembly elections, which have still not been published on the IEC’s website.
“IEC should ensure all polling locations are accessible to all voters, particularly the elderly and persons with disabilities. In addition, take additional measures to make the process more accessible, such as written material for the hearing impaired and listing the candidates’ names in braille on the ballot drums.
“In future elections, the IEC should provide Election Duty Certificates to Domestic observers and the Media to facilitate their deployment and observation efforts,” Mr. Cham told the media.
On their key findings, Mr. Cham told the Journalists that, based on reports from Elections Watch Observers deployed to polling streams in all administrative areas, Gambians peacefully participated in the Local Government elections and faced little or no challenges in casting their vote.
Mr. Cham said the IEC polling officials generally followed procedures during the voting, closing, and counting process.
Mr. Cham further stated that party agents were present in all the polling streams observed by the EWC and did not object to the counting in any of the observed locations.
“Elections Watch Observers in all the polling streams observed reported that pregnant women, physically challenged, and elderly voters were given priority to vote and were allowed assistance from someone of their choice when requested. Elections Watch Observers reported that the IEC polling officials generally followed procedures.
“In all polling stations observed, voters were always asked to present their voter’s card before being allowed to vote, voters were able to cast their ballot in secret, and the finger of every voter was marked with indelible ink, and every voter received only one token in all polling streams observed consistent with the electoral law. In all the polling streams observed, voters without a valid voter card or whose name was not on the voter list were not allowed to vote,” he revealed.
Mr. Cham said that in about half of the polling streams observed, polling officials, security officers, and party agents had election duty certificates that allowed them to vote. He added that in addition to party agents, other observer groups were present at the majority of polling streams with EWC observers during the voting process. Mr. Cham also said that local leaders were present at some polling streams observed.