By Kebba Jeffang & Muhammed S. Bah
Friday, 14 October 2016 witnessed a landmark development in the political history of the Gambia as seven opposition parties and the independent presidential aspirant unveiled their agreement on adopting a national convention as the method of selecting one presidential candidate to challenge the incumbent in the 1 December presidential election.
The seven opposition parties that agreed to sign the statement issued to the press are namely, in alphabetical order, Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP), National Convention Party (NCP), National Reconciliation Party (NRP), People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), People’s Progressive Party (PPP), United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Independent Candidate (IC). However, the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), which was represented at the signing ceremony by its deputy party leader, Yusupha Jaiteh, decided not to sign as it was opposed to using the convention as a method of selection while its last minute proposal for an open primary was rejected by the other party representatives.
The signing ceremony held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, which preceded the press conference, was attended by three presidential candidates namely Dr. Lamin Bojang of NCP, Halifa Sallah of PDOIS and Adama Barrow of UDP and they all signed the agreement. Pa Touray Bajinka signed on behalf of Hon. Hamat N.K. Bah while Madam Ramzia Diab signed on behalf of Dr. Isatou Touray. Mrs Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang and Mr Singhateh signed on behalf of civil society.
In her introductory remarks, Madam Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, the chair of the session, informed the gathering that the meeting is expected to witness two main activities namely the signing of the agreement on the agreed method of selecting a single candidate and the presentation of the signed copies to the press. She then invited the leaders and representatives of various parties and the independent to take the floor before proceeding with the signing ceremony. All the parties and representatives that were present commented on the document with suggestions for the incorporation or removal of certain aspects which were eventually fine tune and agreed on before their signatures were appended on the document.
However, Mr. Jaiteh, GDC deputy leader, who came with two other representatives of his party, asked the chair to consider their proposal for the amendment of the method of having a national convention which allows each of the parties and the independent to select 10 delegates from each of the seven regions in the country to select the united single candidate. He said the GDC is suggesting for the adoption of an open primary in which everybody (voter) should take part in voting process without any restriction on the numbers participating. He said GDC can only continue to be part of the alliance if their suggestion is adopted.
However, all the other parties presented their position on the GDC proposal which they unanimously considered as coming too late in the day after all of them, including the GDC, have extensively discussed in the past weeks and already reached a consensus on how to proceed. It was noted that the GDC was among the leading parties that argued for and supported the method they have now agreed to adopt and that proposal represents a change from their earlier position. It was indicated that the initial proposal before them was for each of the contenders to bring 5000 delegates, as required by the constitution, but was rejected. This number was then reduced to 200 which did not also receive unanimous until a consensus was reached on 10 delegates per administrative region as captured in the agreement.
With the exception of GDC, all the other parties and the independent proceeded to sign the document which was later issued to the press for publication.
The seven opposition political parties and the independent agreed to meet on Sunday (yesterday) to elaborate on the modalities on how to proceed with the convention which was tentatively scheduled for 30 October 2016 and have set up a technical committee to work on the process.
In her closing remarks, Madame Jallow Tambajang, thanked all the parties that were signatories to the agreement which kick starts what she described as “a democratic process that comes to salvage the Gambia as a country and Gambians as a people”. She noted that the event is a historic one which every stakeholder should be proud of. She concluded by urging the GDC to reconsider their position and come back to rejoin the opposition alliance for the general interest.
Below is the press release signed by the seven opposition parties and the Independent:
PRESS RELEASE ON COALITION OPTION ADOPTED BY OPPOSITION PARTIES INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT AND INVITED PARTICIPANTS FROM CIVIL SOCIETY
We, the signatories of this memorandum comprising the representatives of member parties of The Gambia Opposition for Electoral Reform (GOFER), the aspiring Independent Candidate from Civil Society and the invited participants from Civil Society, putting their differences aside, in pursuance of the supreme National interest, do hereby agree:
- To hold a National Convention comprising 10 delegates from each region selected by each signatory party and Presidential aspirant from Civil Society, who are accorded the key mandate to elect one of the aspiring presidential candidates to be the flag-bearer of the Coalition for the 1st December 2016 Presidential Election;
- To this end, we further agree to set up Technical Committees that are charged with the mandate to work out the modalities required to hold the National Convention.
POLITICAL PARTY SIGNATORIES:
Gambia Moral Congress (GMC),
Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP),
National Convention Party (NCP),
National Reconciliation Party (NRP),
People’s Democratic Organisation for independence and Socialism (PDOIS),
People’s Progressive Party (PPP),
United Democratic Party (UDP) and
Independent Candidate (IC).
CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS:
Committee of Concerned Gambians for Democracy and Peace (CCGDP),
Interparty Committee for Opposition Unification (IPCOU)
THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES:
Hon Hamat NK Bah (NRP),
Mr Adama Barrow (UDP),
Dr Lamin Bojang (NCP),
Mr Halifa Sallah (PDOIS) and
Dr Isatou Touray (IC).