ECOWAS PRELIMINARY DECLARATION
1- In furtherance of the Electoral Assistance mandate of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, as contained in the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), and in continuation of its support to the democratic process in The Gambia, the President of the Commission, H.E. Marcel A. de Souza, deployed a Twenty-member Election Observation Mission (EOM) to observe the 6 April 2017 legislative elections in the Republic of The Gambia.
2- The ECOWAS Observation Team, was led by Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, former Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, and included Civil Society experts and trained election observers from ECOWAS Member States. The team was supported by a technical team from the ECOWAS Commission, which included the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peac. and Security, the Special Representative of the ECOWAS President to The Gambia, the Director of Political Affairs, and the Head of the Electoral Assistance Division.
II- BACKGROUND TO THE LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS
3- The amended Electoral Act of the Republic of The Gambia (2016) provides for a fifty- eight-member National Assembly. Of this number, the President has the prerogative to appoint five members, while the fifty-three others are elected from the constituencies demarcated by the Boundaries Commission. The members of the National Assembly are elected for a five-year mandate. The Constitution also provides for elections into the
National Assembly to hold four months after the date of the Presidential election.
4- Candidates for the April 2017 legislative elections were fielded by the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), the former ruling party; the ruling coalition, composed of the United Democratic Party (UDP), the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOlS), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), the Gambia People’s Democratic Party (GPDP), the National Convention Party (NCP), all of which fielded candidates on their individual platforms; the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC); as well as some independent candidates.
5- Against this backdrop, and in line with the provisions of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance; the African Charter on Democracy and Governance; the International Declaration on the Principles of Election Observation and the Elections Act of the Republic of The Gambia, the ECOWAS EOM’s main objective was to support the process for a credible and peaceful elections in The Gambia.
IIJ- ARRIVAL, CONSULTATIONS WITH STAKEHOLDERS AND DEPLOYMENT
6- Prior to the arrival of the ECOWAS Observation Mission, a Needs AssessmenUFact- finding Mission, led by Dr. Afari-Gyan, was deployed to The Gambia, from 20 to 24
February 2017, to identify technical support needs as well as ascertain the level of preparedness for the legislative elections.
7- In line with the recommendation of that mission, the Election Observation Mission arrived in Banjul on 1 April 2017. On 3 April 2017, the ECOWAS Observers attended a briefing organised by the Independent Electoral Commission (lEG) for local and international observers to acquaint them with the election processes.
8- Upon arrival in Banjul, the Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission was briefed about the state of preparedness for the elections and efforts made by the electoral authorities and security agencies to ensure smooth conduct of the elections. On 4 April, Dr. Afari-Gyan addressed a press conference in which he appealed to all political stakeholders to ensure that the 6 April Legislative elections are held in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity so as to consolidate the gains of democracy in The Gambia and the wider West African region.
9- Following an internal briefing session, the ECOWAS Observers were deployed to two of the six Administrative regions in the country: Greater Banjul and the Western region.
10- On the eve of the polls, the Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission received members of the coordination teams of the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) to exchange views on the electoral processes. On 7 April, the Heads of Missions of the International Observer groups met again to compare assessments of the conduct of the polls.