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IEC’s Transparency, Capacity, Key in EU Observers’ Recommendations

“We recommend that they be published on IEC website, desegregated by polling stations and per constituency. People have a right to access such a vital information. That’s something to be done retrospectively for the last election and should be on the agenda for the forthcoming election.”

The European Union Election Observation Mission told journalists yesterday that of the 20 recommendations submitted by their mission to the Gambia’s electoral body, several are of high priority that need urgent redress, including the transparency of the body.

The mission said it “positively assessed” the voting and counting process on the 2021 Election Day. But cited “structural deficiencies and critical procedural and legal gaps” in the country’s voting system that require “fundamental reform.”

“It is fundamental to increase the Independent Electoral Commission’s capacity and transparency in critical areas, including the establishment of specialised divisions (legal, gender),” Chief Neuser had said, pointing to several of these factors are critical in fair conduct.

Chief Observer Mr Norbert Neuser, who was a former Member of the EU Parliament said the mission proposes essential changes to the electoral legal framework, recommends bringing the Gambia’s Elections Act in line with international and regional standards as well as streamlining provisions of the Draft Constitution, the Draft Elections Act, and other Acts relevant to the conduct of elections in The Gambia.

The 2021 result from the Presidential elections is not still published by the IEC as required by law. To this, the Mission proposes “publishing the complete presidential election results, disaggregated by polling station” on the IEC’s website.

“In addition, for all future elections, the Mission suggests releasing disaggregated results during the tabulation process,” said the mission chief.

The 68-page report printed in hard copies was distributed among journalists after the press conference and followed by questions from the gallery.

Anne Marlborough, election analyst with the mission helped explain some of the points raised by the press. In response to a question raised by this reporter about which of the recommendations are of urgent priority for the IEC, especially considering the National Assembly Elections are weeks away, she said those are several.

Anne Marlborough, election analyst, EU EOM

Anne Marlborough, election analyst, EU EOM

One of these is that the IEC should publish the election results without delay,” she said. The 2021 presidential election results, besides verbal pronouncement, has still not been published by the IEC.

There have been other “procedural matters” of urgency for the IEC: “for example, procedures about complains and appeals during the electoral process. At present, there is an absence of a regulation in this area,” said the analyst.

The Gambia’s Elections Decree confers on the IEC the power to make regulation, make rules to implement that legislation. Unfortunately, several simple but important procedures and regulations by the IEC under the framework of the election are not being implemented. “These could come in quite quickly,” said Marlborough.

There is also the issue of the campaign code of conduct signed by all the politicians and their respective parties. “Indeed it is well established, but there’s very little detail on how that code is to be monitored and implemented in terms of sanctions and punishment by the IEC [in cases of violation by parties and candidates].”

“Another one is around the procedures for polling, counting and transfer of votes. There are some guidelines given to the polling staff as a polling manual. But that’s it: there’s no other procedures detailed anywhere. There’s an element of ad hoc improvisation in different counting and collation practices. So, all of that are to be formalised and made identical across the country. That is something that does not require a change in any legislation and can be more immediate,” she added.

Long term recommendations are also detailed in our report. As noted by the mission’s Chief Observer, there’s been an improved democratic tendency, change in the practice of freedom of expression. “Yet,” the mission said, “a good amount of laws are still repressive particularly on freedom of expression.”

They observe that there are many areas in which the law does not reflect current practices. “Even things like voter registration cards, the laws do not specify whether to use paper ballots or write on voter cards. So, there are many areas where the law is just out of step and it’s redundant,” said Marlborough.

She added: “Yes, we’ve presented our report to the IEC. And we were very gratified that they’ve said to us that they will examine the report and consider it. So we hope that they’ll do that. A lot of work had gone into this report and we are inspired by international standards that The Gambia is a party to.

“This is not the EU recommendations out of the thin air. It is very much based on the consent of what you, as a sovereign nation, decided to accede to in the framework of ECOWAS, the AU and the UN. We are just reiterating those commitments of The Gambia and offering those recommendations to yourselves to take forward,” she maintained.

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