If you are independent it makes it easy for people to accept the final results [of the election], Mr. Adama Barrow told the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, on Wednesday.
The presidential candidate backed by a seven-member coalition of opposition parties submitted his papers for nomination to the IEC on Nov. 9, 2016 ahead of the December polls.
“I know Alieu Momar Njai [IEC chairperson] as a gentleman and as a principled somebody,” he began saying after receiving a letter of acceptance of his nomination.
He said as the chairman of the IEC, Mr. Njai is the referee in this [political] game.
“If you are the referee, we expect your independence. If you are independent it makes your job easy. If you are independent it is good for our democracy,” he said.
“When there is independence the final results is always the verdict of the Gambian people, and if it is the verdict of the Gambian people then it is the verdict of God. So, we want your independence in this matter,” Barrow added.
He has been told earlier by the Electoral Commission’s boss that his submission will be subject to further scrutiny on Saturday.
Barrow was accompanied by the leaders of the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), Gambia Democratic Party for Development (GDPD), National Convention Party (NCP), National Reconciliatory Party (NRP), People’s Progressive Party (PPP), People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), United Democratic Party (UDP) and an independent candidate.
The Gambia’s often repressed opposition are of the view that “no one candidate or political party can win against the incumbent” in a first past the post system of voting – which offers victory to a candidate with a simple majority of the total votes cast.
Dr. Isatou Touray, an independent candidate, said the coalition has an overwhelming majority of supporters over the other parties. She said should come out and vote in in large numbers.
“You (women) you have everything it takes to make us win,” she said. “They should come out because they are going to save their children, the young people and shape the destiny of the country. And I’m sure they will come out.”
She said their priorities, like the flag bearer has mentioned, is to create jobs for young people, improve agriculture which is the mainstay of the economy among other things.
The women’s rights activist said she will continue to defend the rights of Gambians if the coalition wins – saying “that is why I am here.”
Mai Fatty, leader of the GMC, said he is in the country “to strengthen our democracy and to make sure the triumphant voice of Gambians will emerge at the end of the day.”
In 2011, Fatty’s GMC and the UDP dismissed the elections as “bogus, fraudulent and constitute a capricious usurpation of the will of the people” after the incumbent Yahya Jammeh was elected a fourth time.
“Well, we are looking at the process. At the end of the day we will make a determination as a group as to the integrity of the election process,” he told FPI when asked if he is expecting a free and transparent election this time.
“We expect that the IEC will be independent and will make people to express their will freely. At the end of the day we expect that the Gambia will have the democracy it deserves.”
Mr. Fatty said “without an iota of doubt” the coalition is hopeful of winning the elections. “We will win because the nation has expressed its resolve to win.”
Human rights conflict
The leader of the NRP, Hamat Bah, said The Gambia is faced with a human rights conflict. He said the majority of migrants heading to Europe are from countries affected by conflicts.
Mr. Bah said: “…and The Gambia has one of the largest numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and there is no conflict here. There is conflict of course; the conflict in The Gambia is violation of human rights, suppression, and total disregard for the rule of law, the imprisonment, and the lack of jobs for the young people.”
Prior to his nomination, Mr. Barrow was compelled to resign as leader of the UDP – the biggest opposition party and to run as an independent candidate – to lead the coalition. Gambian law recognizes only party-sponsored or self-sponsored presidential candidates.
Jailed for protests
His former party leader Ousainou Darboe and 30 other opposition activists are jailed since July after local courts convicted and sentenced him and supporters to three years in prison for violating the Public Order Act.
The jailed militants were among those arrested for holding a peaceful protest calling for electoral reform in April and further protests to call for the release of detained protesters. Two activists have since died in state custody.
The campaign group Human Rights Watch accuses the Jammeh-led government of presiding over a climate of fear in its report “More Fear Than Fair” published on November 1, 2016.