By Kebba Jeffang
“I am the returning officer but I will be the last person to know who wins or loses the election. This is because of the introduction of spot counting where all the votes will be counted and known by 6pm on election day at every polling station,” said Mr. Alieu Momarr Njai, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The IEC Chairman said this in an exclusive interview with Foroyaa on Tuesday, 6th September, in his office situated at the Bertil Harding Highway in Kanifing, while assuring the general public that there will be independence, transparency and fair-play in the forthcoming presidential election slated for 1st December, this year.
“I can assure the general public that IEC is fair enough to preside over this presidential election independently and with fair play,” he said.
Mr. Njai said this time round there will be a returning officer at every polling station and party agents representing their various parties who will all sign the counted result after they have confirmed who wins at that particular center. He said thereafter the returning officers will send the results to the returning offices, again in the presence of the party agents, before it is transmitted to him (returning officer) for final declaration through announcement in the media.
He said it will be the same when it is a coalition whose agents at the polling centers will also sign along with the returning officers. “The result will now have to be transmitted to me for media announcement,” he said.
The IEC Chair said with this arrangement in place there cannot be any differences in the figures as the party agents will know and endorse the results before they are announced.
“And to determine who wins or loses is by having free and transparent election and the voters must be bonafide Gambians with a qualified right to have voters card. The voters should make sure nobody knows who they voted for because you were alone in the polling room and at the end of the day you will know who wins or loses. The IEC officers and the party agents will confirm everything at the polling center. What is more transparent than this,” he asked.
On the issue of civil servants openly supporting and campaigning for the ruling party, the IEC Chair said the laws do not allow them to do so but added that there is an exception in the case of the president who goes along with his entourage as is happening in other countries.
On the issue of free and equal access to the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) during the campaign period, Mr. Njai said “for the state TV, the period that we are in charge, we give them equal airtime starting from 14 November to 29th November 2016.”
The Chairman added that IEC as an institution is charged with the responsibility to conduct elections in the country and whoever is here must abide by the rules and regulations that are governing the electoral process.
On the issue of the replacement of voters card which attracts the fee of D100 which is considered prohibitive by many people, the IEC head said it is costly to process a voter’s card and is therefore advising the Gambian voters that any person who has it must handle it with care. He said the purpose of D100 is to make people to be responsible and take good care in handling their cards.
Meanwhile, Chairman Njai reminded that the replacement process for defaced and loss cards are still ongoing at all the IEC offices and that people should go and replace their cards in order to be qualified to vote. He clarified that this replacement process does not include fresh acquisition of cards as the supplementary registration has ended since March which allows for the issuing of new cards.
He, therefore, urged all qualified Gambians who have their cards lost or defaced to replace them before the deadline of 29th September. He said he is also urging the presidential candidates, parliamentarians and councilors to ask their supporters to come for replacement since they need those votes.