By Kebba Jeffang
Mr. Halifa Sallah, the spokesperson for the Coalition told journalists that 6 parties are ready to contest under the coalition ticket while the United Democratic Party (UDP) and National Reconciliation Party (NRP) are yet to agree on joining the unity banner.
Mr. Sallah said the Coalition is not preaching for the abolition of political parties or their participation in any election. He added that the Coalition is established precisely to promote genuine multi party contest. According to Sallah, the unity government is created because of the absence of a climate for conducting genuine multi party system to contest, which gave rise to the coalition noting that it was going to be difficult to win the incumbent if the parties were divided.
He said the coalition after winning the Presidential election, decided to build a new Gambia with a foundation that no one will claim the ownership of the government and all will assist the president for the common good and all the parties will take the ownership of the achievement.
He said: “All parties could contest election but we were faced as coalition with the question: Do we disintegrate into separate parties and contest on the basis of parties affiliation or do we maintain the same tactics that was adopted to establish the coalition for the Presidential election. For the Presidential election, the candidate has resigned from his party to stand as a candidate for all as independent coalition.”
Mr. Sallah said the question the coalition was confronted with is that: “Should the candidate from the various parties come together and the ones selected among their number to stand as an independent coalition in order to present independent coalition candidates throughout the country or do we say when one party puts here a candidate, the other party should not put there and settle the matter that way”.
He said the question they had to address as a Coalition is “what would enable the coalition to win the highest number of seats because under the Constitution the national assembly requires at least simple majority to be able to pass any bill and 3 quarters majority to be able to amend the Constitution. The coalition has its legislative agenda, an agenda for Constitutional and legal reform. The question is if it does not have 3 quarters majority would it be able to carry out such reforms and this is a question that the coalition has to answer.”
He said the executive requires support from the national assembly members in the analysis of bills and in terms of agreements and ratifications as well as on simple oversight looking at the happenings at the level of the ministries and give honest opinions to the executive for the objective of proper policy making. He said if the executive does not have that support it would not be able to govern in the best of manner.
“So my duty is to report to you that after lengthy deliberation I am told to tell you that the position of the coalition is to participate in this election on the basis of the independent coalition candidacy. Of course parties have reservations and they still have reservations but the coalition cannot withhold its position because nomination is going to take place on the 9th [of March]” he said.
“And if we were to maintain the same principle all of you are fully aware that parties during the presidential election had to decide whether they will put up candidates or not in the presidential election until we were left with 6 candidates while others decided not to”.
He said based on that those candidates were brought together in order to select one among them to be an independent coalition presidential candidate. According to him, the same principle must be applied if they are going to have coalition independent national assembly members.
“We must look at the candidate that the parties wish to put as candidates and bring them together to narrow the gap so that we end up with one candidate. The executive of the coalition has emphasized that in terms of the national assembly, candidates are given 2 criteria in terms of national assembly selection – the electability of a candidate as well as competence of the candidate – because without competence we are not going to have a very strong and viable national assembly and consequently our objective would have to fail,” Sallah said.
Meanwhile, responding to a question, Sallah revealed that the two parties that have not agreed to contest under the coalition are the United Democratic Party (UDP) and National Reconciliation Party (NRP). He declined to comment on why the parties decided not to contest under the Coalition.
However, Sallah emphasized that sovereignty resides in every Gambian and those parties have freedom to decide to contest alone which people must respect. He urged people to avoid derogatory remarks as they can decide what is best for them.