NA PASSES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTIONS (AMENDMENT) BILL

Abdoulie G. Dibba

The National Assembly on Tuesday, 7th July 2015, passed the controversial Elections (Amendment) Bill.New National Assembly Building

The Bill that was passed seeks to put the deposit of presidential candidates at D500,000 (Five hundred thousand dalasis) and  D50,000(Fifty thousand dalasi) for the National Assembly candidates. The Bill had initially sought for a deposit of D1 million dalasis for presidential candidates and D100,000 for National Assembly candidates.

Unlike initial proposals the Bill provides for deposits to be in accordance with what is provided for in the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia.

The Elections (Amendment) Bill also seeks for the payment of a fee of D1 million for the registration of a political party.

Apart from the amendments mentioned above, the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2015 was passed as proposed with the exception of the amendment of section 12 of the principal Act which deals with attestation. The proposed amendment on this section was turned down by deputies. At the moment, it would suffice if an applicant for registration produces a document certified by five elders that he/she is a citizen of The Gambia or a document certified by the district Seyfo or an Alkalo of the village stating that the he/she was born in the district or village. The commission shall not reject any of these documents produced for registration. This is what section 12 currently provides.

The Bill sought to delete this so that subsection (2) of section 12 would read:
“…a person’s name shall not be entered in a register of voters in a constituency unless he or she produces one of the following documents –

(a)   A birth certificate;

(b)   A Gambian passport;

(c)    A National Identity Card;

Subsection (3) is proposed to be replaced by the following:

“The Commission shall interview an applicant to determine his or her eligibility to be registered as a voter”.

The National Assembly rejected this.

In short the use of certificates of five elders and chiefs which shall not be questioned by the registering officer will continue.

In tabling the Bill before the Members of the National Assembly, the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mr. Lamin Nyabally read out the following objects and reasons:

“This Bill seeks to amend the provisions of the Elections Act which have been a cause of concern for the Independent Electoral Commission in its conduct of public elections in The Gambia. This includes deleting the provisions of sections 34 dealing with returns on deaths and sections 35, 36 and 37 dealing with transfer of registrations. The Bill also seeks to amend the provisions relating to the withdrawal period for candidates vying for elections as well as providing for counting of votes on the spot at the polling centres.

“More significantly the Bill seeks to vest the power of granting permits for political processions and rallies in the Commission both during and outside of election campaign periods. The Bill also seeks to ensure that political parties are highly organized and run by serious people by providing for certain minimum standards for the registration and functioning of political parties in The Gambia.”

After the tabling of the bill, the Majority Leader seconded the motion.

See next edition for contributions in the debate as Foroyaa will report as per contribution by Members.