OPPOSITION PARTIES PRESENT 12 DEMANDS FOR ELECTORAL, CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

Six Gambian political parties in the opposition have jointly presentedOpposition Leaders
a set of 12 proposals and demands for electoral and constitutional
reforms before a new electoral cycle begins in 2016, as contained in a
press release issued on 30 June 2015.The concern political parties are the GMC, GPDP, NRP, PDOIS, PPP and UDP.
Below is the full text of the press release:

PRESS RELEASE ON THE 11TH May PROPOSAL AND DEMANDS OF THE OPPOSITION
FOR ELECTORAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
In response to the general consensus among the opposition  and
election monitors of the need for electoral reform in the Gambia to
promote free, fair and credible elections, six opposition parties held
a series of meetings to take stock of all the constitutional, legal,
procedural and administrative challenges confronting the electoral
system and have on  11th May 2015 formulated a comprehensive set of
demands and proposals for electoral reform, aimed at ensuring the
creation of a level political architecture for holding free, fair and
genuine elections  and have forwarded them to the President of the
Republic of The Gambia, The Chairperson IEC, The Speaker of the
National Assembly, The Chief Justice, The Attorney  General and
Minister of Justice, The Secretary General ,United Nations; The
Chairman, African Union ; The High Representative For Foreign Affairs
, EU; The Chairman , ECOWAS; The Secretary of state, United States and
Reverend Jesse Jackson .
The following is a summary of the proposals and demands for electoral
and constitutional reform to enhance participatory democracy and
undiluted choice in public elections.

1. PROTECTION OF FRANCHISE
The opposition observed that section 39 of the constitution of the
Gambia guarantees the right of all Gambians, who are 18 years and
above, being resident at home or abroad, to be registered as voters
and to vote at public elections. The right of Gambians resident abroad
to be registered as voters and to vote is also statutorily granted by
Section 11 and Section 141 of the Elections Act.
Therefore the Opposition demands among other things the recognition
and observance of the right of all Gambians to be registered as voters
and to vote, irrespective of whether they are resident at home or
abroad.
It is further proposed for general registration of voters to be
conducted a year before the beginning of each electoral cycle and
supplementary registration of voters be conducted  annually during an
electoral cycle, comprising presidential, national Assembly and
council elections.
Further measures were proposed aimed at preventing fraudulent
registration through attestation,
2.            PROTECTION FROM GERRYMANDERING AND-    ENSURING EQUAL
REPRESENTATION

The opposition noted that section 50 of the Constitution makes
provision “for the establishment of a Constituency Boundaries
Commission” since 2001 which has been honoured with disregard. The
absence of such a commission had led to gross imbalance in respect to
the size of constituencies thus negating the ideal situation of having
constituencies with equal population or equal number of voters, which
alone could give effect to the principle of equal number of persons
determining equal number of representatives.
Hence Kombo North constituency, which is entitled to one National
Assembly member,  has 110,000 registered voters, which is more than
the number of voters registered  in all the three constituencies
combined  in the Banjul administrative area;  all the Constituencies
combined  in the Kerewan administrative area;  all the 6
constituencies combined  in the  Mansa Konko administrative area; all
the 11 Constituencies  combined  in the  Janjanbureh administrative
area  and  all the 7 constituencies combined in  the Basse
administrative area,  respectively.
The opposition demands the immediate enactment of the Constituency
Boundaries Commission Act and the immediate demarcation of
constituencies prior to the general registration of voters, on the
basis of the principle of equal number of inhabitants or equal number
of voters for each constituency.
It strongly  recommends  that, in the event of any constituency
boundaries delineation exercise, the demarcation proposed by The
Commission under the Chairmanship of Arch Bishop Tilewa Johnson  be
given due  consideration.

3. PROTECTION OF THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION
The opposition observed that the removal from office of three
Chairpersons of the Independent Electoral Commission and other members
by the executive prior to even serving one seven-year term and the
failure to publish the appointments in the Gazette so that the courts
could take judicial notice of them, have undermined the Independence
of the Commission and the security of tenure of its members and has
also facilitated an overstay of membership beyond the limit
established by the Constitution.
The opposition demands that all appointments of commission members be
gazetted as required by law for all subsidiary legislations and those
who have served more than two seven year terms should vacate their
seats and no member of the Commission be removed for any reason
without the setting up of a tribunal comprising three judges of
superior courts to determine any allegation of misconduct or
infirmity.
It is further proposed that the membership of the Commission be
increased to seven excluding the Chairperson so that there is a
Commissioner responsible for each of the seven Administrative Areas.
In order to instill confidence in all stakeholders and guarantee the
absolute independence of the Commission, a constitutional amendment is
proposed to make it mandatory to draw members of the Commission from
TANGO,  The Gambia Bar Association, The Gambia Press Union, the Gambia
Christian Council, The Supreme Islamic Council, The Gambia Teacher’s
Union, The National Youth Council  as long as they function as non
partisan civil society segments. Appointments should be sensitive to
the principle of gender equity.

4. PROTECTION OF THE ABSOLUTE MAJORITY PRINCIPLE AND UNDILUTED CHOICE
The opposition observed that section 48 of the Constitution which was
amended was approved at a referendum in 1996 to ensure that a
President is elected by the absolute majority to guarantee undiluted
choice.
The relevant portion of the amended provision stated that
“(3) No person shall be elected as President on a first ballot unless
the votes cast in his or her favour at the election are more than
fifty per cent of the total number of votes validly cast at that
election.
.The opposition proposes the re-enactment of  this constitutional
provision  before the 2016 Presidential Elections.

5. PROTECTION FROM FRAUDULENT REGISTRATION PRACTICE
It is statutorily established and mandatory for every Gambian citizen
being 18 years or older to possess a national Identity card. We demand
that the National ID serves as the principal document to be produced
or an affidavit indicating its loss, defacing or destruction, to
determine age and citizenship for registration as a voter.  We demand
that all those who are registered using an affidavit to appear before
a revising court to show their new ID cards or have their names struck
out.
The opposition  proposes that, like the voter’s card, the ID card
should be made universally accessible, at public expense for all
Gambians 18 years or older. Cost should be involved only if
replacement is needed.
It  is further proposed for the Elections Act to make provision for
each registration team to be monitored by two registration agents
appointed by each registered political party and maintained by a fund
set up for that purpose and administered by the IEC.
It is strongly recommended that street names and compound numbers of
registered voters in cities and towns and kabilo names and compound
numbers of voters in villages be included in registers of voters to
detect and serve objections against those who have unlawfully
registered as voters.

6    NON INTERFERENCE OF PUBLIC SERVANTS AND THE DISCIPLINED FORCE IN
PARTISAN MATTERS
The opposition observes that Section 41 of the Constitution provides
“equal access to public facilities and the media by candidates at
public elections.”
Section 222 adds that “no  public servant or member of the disciplined
force should
(a) Allow his or her political inclinations to interfere with the
discharge of his or her official duties;
b) be a member of, or take part in any association of persons which
might prevent him or her from impartially discharging his or her
duties; or
(c) take part in any activities which cast doubt on his or her
capacity to deal impartially with matters or issues which are the
concern of his or her public office or which interfere with the
performance of his or her public duties. ”
The opposition further observes that the Memorandum of understanding
between parties  makes it obligatory for all parties to  “respect the
full separation of powers as detailed in the constitution.
II. Not seek in any way to unduly influence or use other arms of
government for political purposes;
III. “Refrain from using Civil Servants and public funds for campaign purposes.”
.The opposition, therefore demands that all parties refrain from using
public servants, members of the disciplined force, traditional rulers,
public facilities and public funds for campaign purposes; that the
post of  head of the civil service be divorced from cabinet post; that
no circular be issued  to public servants by departmental heads
requesting them to participate in any matter which has partisan
objectives.

7. PROTECTION OF SECRECY OF THE BALLOT
The opposition took note of the provision of  Section 40 of the
constitution which  states that, “All public elections and all
referenda voting shall be by secret ballot.”
The opposition has given reasons why the voting method where Polling
agents are required by law to sit where they would not be able to know
how a voter voted but would know that only one ballot has been cast by
listening to the sound resulting from the impact of ballot tokens on
the internal baffle plate or device in each ballot box which should
emit the same sound to avoid detection, has become anachronistic and
proposes ballot papers  to replace the marbles.

8. PROTECTION FROM THE ABUSE OF INCUMBENCY
The opposition highlighted that Section 208 of the Constitution calls
on :  “All state owned newspapers, journals, radio and television
shall afford fair opportunities and facilities in the presentation of
divergent views and dissenting opinion.”    ‘
Since all parties are required to prepare manifestoes, we demand that
all parties are periodically given access to the state media to
explain the content of their manifestoes and debate on them.
The opposition proposes the adoption of a campaign period of three
months duration to enable the voters to be well informed and create a
level ground before elections.

9.  PROTECTION AGAINST OSTRACISM OR STIGMA OR DISCRIMINATION
Relying on Section 26 of the Constitution which  states that, “Every
citizen of The Gambia of full age and capacity shall have the right,
without unreasonable restrictions-
(a)  to  take  part  in  the  conduct  of  public  affairs,  directly
or  through  freely  chosen representatives;
(b) to vote and. stand for elections at genuine periodic elections for
public office, which election shall be by universal and equal suffrage
and be held by secret ballot;”
the opposition observed that it is  reasonable restriction to bar a
child or one suffering from infirmity from standing for public
elections but would constitute unreasonable and unjustifiable
restriction to bar a Gambian from standing for public1elections who is
above the age of a child and is of sound mind and body.
.It recommends for the amendment of section 63 of the constitution so
that an upper age limit would not constitute a bar to participation as
a presidential candidate.
It is also recommended that a Gambian stationed abroad to work, study
or for any other purpose be considered to be ordinarily resident in
the Gambia.

10. The Opposition endorsed  the IEC’s recommendation to the National
Assembly for  electoral law review to exclude Attestation Forms from
the  documents  that  are  to  be  forwarded  to  the
Registration  Officers  during registration of voters” to  determine
citizenship and  the request to re-introduce the screening of
registration applicants by registering officers.
The opposition further supports the proposal to mandate the IEC to
demarcate boundaries before the setting up of a boundaries Commission
and hold Presidential and National Assembly Elections on the same day
using paper ballot as the system of voting.

11.  TWO TERM LIMITATION ON TENURE FOR THE PRESIDENCY
The opposition recommended the promulgation of a two term limit of
four or five year duration per term to enhance greater political
stability and national peace and security.

11. VACANCY IN THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT
Running Mate or Election Within 90 days
The Opposition observes that Section 65 of the Constitution provides
for the assumption of the office of President by the Vice President
whenever the office of president becomes vacant and by the speaker if
there is no Vice president. To ensure that no person becomes president
who is not elected by the people we recommend the adoption of the
practice of having a running mate in contesting presidential
elections. In the event that a vacancy occurs after the running mate
assumes office we recommend that an  election to the office of
President be held  within 90 days after  the office of president
becomes vacant, if the remaining term is more than two years. In any
other case the Speaker of the National Assembly would assume the
office for the rest of the term.

12. THE REVITALISATION OF THE INTERPARTY COMMITTEE
The opposition proposes for the revitalisation of the Interparty
Committee to enable it to serve as a forum for dialogue and
cooperation to promote participatory democracy anchoring on the level
ground required for the holding of free, fair and genuine elections.
The opposition further proposes that the Interparty Committee be given
a statutory mandate to enable it to foster dialogue on broader
Constitutional, Legal, Institutional and Administrative reforms
touching on the mandate and operations of the  Executive, National
Assembly, The Judiciary, Regional Administration, the National Council
for Civic Education and the IEC in order  to promote good governance,
participatory democracy and genuine elections.

ISSUED ON 17TH JUNE 2015 BY :

GMC                                    GPDP
NRP

PDOIS                                   PPP
UDP