COLUMN | The Eventful Journey to December 4th Elections and the Road Ahead
|Unique Circumstances of a Maiden Post Dictatorship Presidential Election, the Runners and Its Likely Outcome|
By Pa Louis Sambou
After the fall of a ‘strong man’ in former President Jammeh who hamstrung far much more than a fair share of daily life of Gambians including those of public institutions, most Gambians were relieved and thought: ‘never again’. Well, we were wrong. After twenty-two years, public institutions became so accustomed to being kept ‘in line’ through diktat ‘from the top’ rather than through due process, post Jammeh, contrary to public expectation, some of these institutions and figureheads within them increasingly display a worrying lack of regard to the courts. Not even according the judiciary the courtesy of deference. In the build-up to, and over the course of the coming Presidential elections, this lamentable phenomenon has manifested itself in more ways than most would have liked vis-à-vis the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and its response to court rulings: High court and Court of Appeal ruling to the effect that the authorisation to the Mayor of Banjul to issue attestations was unlawful, the Supreme Court’s declaration to the effect that the law mandates that Gambians in the Diaspora be registered to vote, the High court ruling to the effect that Citizens’ Alliance’s Dr Ismaila Ceesay’s and Gambia Moral Congress’s Mai Fatty’s nominations were unlawfully rejected. In the case of the former, the IEC took no corrective steps to expunge the relevant voters from the register. As regards the case of the latter two, the IEC simply doubled-down. Effectively, the ‘strong man’ is no more as are his diktats, however, what appears to be an emergence of ‘strong men’ from within certain democratic institutions renders the exercise of judicial oversight authority over the same as intended by the Constitution, a needless uphill challenge.
It is most definitely not my intention to spike the exercise given the sensitivity of the subject matter. With such in mind, I have held back against the exercise of any personal opinion as regards the IEC, but merely stated the facts which underpin the circumstances under which Saturday’s elections are being conducted, facts without which any commentary as regards the elections would fall short of an accurate representation.
Overall, most fair-minded people would agree that unlike previous Presidential elections, the government of the day has thus far not conducted itself in such a manner so as to unlawfully disadvantage the opposition or, unlawfully gain an unfair advantage over its opponents. This is enormous progress for which all relevant stakeholders including the Inter Party Committee of registered political parties and Gambian civil society deserve a worthy commendation. For anyone who believed or perhaps still believes that the pursuit of a formidable democracy in The Gambia is a pipe dream, this is clearly one progress which undermines that mindset.
As for the available options before the voters, the emergence of new opposition political forces is refreshing. However, with a heightened reluctance among these for any cooperation as has been seen over the past months and weeks, I suspect I am speaking for the vast majority of Gambians in stating that the progressive opposition may have unfortunately misread the public mood. These may have seriously underestimated the voters’ desire for a rock solid ‘system change’ alternative to the incumbent and his breakaway political exiles (the UDP) both of whom it is fair to say, offer more or less the same bankrupt hollow ideas and play the same medieval politics of pitting ethnic and religious communities against each other in order to harvest political capital for their own insular purposes. As conventional wisdom suggests that the latter two are the front runners, we may find that the prospects of another bad government emerging from the polls still remains a very high possibility. This grim prospect of course lives or dies on the command of the voters. One can only hope that the voters will choose wisely.
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