The People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) has written the following letter to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) questioning the validity of the grounds for holding a by election in Bwiam Ward, which is scheduled to take place on 23 July 2015.
RE: QUESTIONING THE VALIDITY OF THE GROUNDS FOR HOLDING BY ELECTION IN BWIAM
The Central Committee of PDOIS has received the following notice from the IEC:
Following the notification from the Brikama Area Council of the expulsion of the erstwhile Councilor for Bwiam Ward Mrs Fatou Nyassi Dukureh, the INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION will conduct a by-election to fill the said vacant seat in the said Area Council on Thursday 23rd July 2015.
This is in accordance with Section 23 of the Local Government Act 2002; with respect to Section 19 of the same Act.”
I am directed to convey to you that there is no provision of the Constitution or the Local Government Act which links expulsion from a party with revocation of mandate as a member of a council. That applies only to National Assembly seats by virtue of Section 91(1)(d) which states among other things that:
“(1) A member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly-
(d) If he or she ceases to be a member of the political party of which he or she was a member at the time of his or her election;
Provided that nothing in this paragraph shall apply on a merger of political parties at the national level where such merger is authorised by the constitutions of the parties concerned;”
The Local Government Act does not contain any such provision. Section 23 of the Local Government Act which you made reference to in your public notice simply states: “Where an elected member of a council ceases to hold office under sections 19 to 22 of this act, a by-election shall be held within two months to elect another person to replace him or her; except that where he or she ceased to hold office within six months before the end of his or her tenure of office, no by-election shall be held”.
Needless to say, Section 19 has no provision for a removal of an elected councillor through expulsion from a party.
The revocation of the original mandate of an elected councillor could only be done under section 22 which states:
“Subject to this section, the mandate of a Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson or an elected member of a council may be removed by the electorate.
(2) For the purpose of revoking the mandate of the Chairperson or an elected member of a Council, at least fifty percent of the registered voters in the electoral area shall petition the Independent Electoral Commission for the revocation.
(3) On receipt of the petition referred to in subsection (2), the Independent Electoral Commission shall organise a referendum to decide the issue whether or not such Chairperson or member shall be recalled.”
Hence, if the by election is being held only because the councillor is expelled from the APRC, then the election is unconstitutional and unlawful and should be put to a stop.
Your urgent clarification of the grounds for the by- election is being earnestly sought.
Your cooperation should be highly appreciated.
Yours in the Service of the People,