Extensive Legal Reform, Civic Education, Critical For Democratic Development-Eu

Abdoulai G. Dibba

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to The Gambia has released its Final Report in which it states that extensive Legal Reform and continuous Civic Education will be critical for the Gambia’s Democratic development.

The report provided a comprehensive assessment of the electoral process against The Gambia’s laws, as well as the country’s regional and international commitments to democratic elections and a list of 31 recommendations for consideration by the authorities and other electoral stakeholders, on how to improve future elections, by granting the electorate full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.

“It is important to strengthen the institutional independence of the IEC by establishing an inclusive mechanism for the selection and appointment of the IEC Chairperson and Commissioners; by ensuring the security of the IEC Commissioners’ tenure, and by providing the IEC with full sovereignty over its budget,” said Chief Observer Miroslav Poche.

Mr. Poche noted that the IEC’s commitment to democracy, delivered credible elections, but is yet to strengthen the integrity of results and would be desirable for them to establish clear and coherent procedures for polling, counting, results transfer and collation.

“Fulfilment of this as well as of many other recommendations will require cooperation between various electoral stakeholders as well as an inclusive dialogue with civil society,” stressed the Chief Observer.

The EU EOM has identified the following 11 priority recommendations:

Legal Framework:

  • Revise the legal requirements for registration as a political party.
  • Establish the Boundaries Commission and enact legislation outlining the criteria for the demarcation of constituency boundaries, impartially and transparently, ensuring the equality of the vote, with legally binding permitted deviations from the national average number of voters per constituency.

Election Administration and Election Results:

  • Strengthen the institutional independence of the IEC by establishing an inclusive mechanism for the selection and appointment of the IEC Chairperson and Commissioners; ensuring the security of the IEC Commissioners’ tenure; and by providing the IEC with full sovereignty over its budget as well as a legal requirement for the IEC Commission to make joint decisions, particularly on results.
  • Establish clear and coherent procedures for polling, counting, result transfer, and collation, in conjunction with the introduction of improved security measures of results and collation forms as well as provide timely, participatory training of election staff and candidate’s agents on these procedures.

Voter Registration and Civic Education:

  • Establish an accurate voter register and provide citizens with timely opportunities to register as voters; to update voter registration entries in case of error or change of place of residence; to remove deceased and other unqualified persons’ entries, with adequate time for display and challenge.
  • Deliver extensive and continuous civic education which would ensure that all citizens are informed of their rights as citizens and voters. They would also be made aware of the role of elected institutions and of the main aspects of governance. Special programmes aimed at youth, women and persons with disabilities could also be developed and implemented. CSOs could play an active role in the promotion and implementation of these activities.

Campaign Finance:

  • Confer the power to conduct effective campaign finance oversight on the IEC or on a yet-to-be-established anti-corruption body. The respective body should be granted sufficient powers to monitor and enforce rules on campaign finance. To enhance transparency, financial reports of all parties and candidates could be published before and after the campaign period.

Media:

  • Amend the legal framework for traditional and online media regarding content limitations and registration procedures; decriminalise defamation and lift online media’s liability for third-party content, consequently bringing the overall legal framework in line with The Gambia’s international commitments regarding freedom of expression.
  • Establish legal safeguards for the public service broadcaster’s editorial independence and financial autonomy.

 Participation of Women:

  • Introduce legal requirements, such as mandatory quotas, for political parties to apply affirmative action gender policies within their parties, in terms of integrating women into party structures and selecting women as party candidates. Such policies can be particularly effective when using the bottom-up approach.  Enforcement measures could be linked to the ongoing registration of the political party. In any revision of the electoral system, introduction of quotas for female candidates could be considered.

Complaints and Appeals:

  • The introduction of a detailed complaints procedure, with reasonable time limits for adjudication, should be considered. The procedure could regulate matters such as when, in what format and to which institution, complaints would be submitted and how they would be adjudicated upon.

FOROYAA will serialise the report in its subsequent editions.