IEC chairman seeks approval for Gambia diasporans to register and vote in elections

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Gambia’s electoral commission chairman is pursuing government backing and the use of the country’s foreign embassies for collaboration to introduce out of the country voter registration and participation in elections.

Alieu Momar Njie said in plan, the commission is contemplating on conducting a general registration of all voters with those in and outside the country, starting with those in the country before the referendum and those outside the country after referendum.

“This would enable Gambia diasporans the opportunity to not only vote but can be voted for in the National Assembly. The legal framework has been in place for Gambians living in abroad to vote but the political will has not been there during the last administration,” Mr Njie said at the third Stake in the Nation Forum on Saturday.

Stake in The Nations Forum (SNF) is a consultative dialogue organised by GK Partners and the Office of The President. It is mix of diaspora homecoming, policy forum, consultative mechanism and professional networking for diaspora and sustainable development.

It is part of the Technical Cooperation Programme (TPP) co-financed by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. It is implemented and co-financed by GK Partners in partnership with the Government of The Gambia under its Migration and Sustainable Development in The Gambia.

Mr Njie who was branded hero for having the bravery to announce President Adama Barrow as winner of the 2016 presidential election said as it stands now, the law did not empower those in the diaspora to vote but has empower them to be registered.

He expressed the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) desire to review the country’s voter registration list, saying that is needed because since the last general registration in 2011, many citizens have now reached the legal age for registration.

“The conduction of credible elections is by inclusiveness, transparency and accountability. The commission envisages that all legal framework would be in place for the registration of voters and inclusion of Gambians living in abroad as well as registration in the National Assembly.”

According to him, the growing interest of the involvement of Gambians who are temporally or permanently residing abroad in electoral process has been the desire of the commission for far too long, saying the involvement of Gambian citizens in electoral process who reached the legal age without restrictions is fundamental in the country’s democratic process.

“The acceptance by the stakeholders, including women leaders, people with disabilities, the press and National Assembly members for the proposed out of country registration and voting would pave the way for inclusive election.”

The country’s election chief said the need for out of country voting came as a result of the increased in the number of Gambians who are of voting age living abroad and their call for inclusion in the electoral process.

Gambians living in abroad have been requesting for the introduction of out of the country voting but Mr Njie said the challenges will be the legal framework to clearly spell out the mode of registration, saying in the countries with the largest number of Gambians, the documentation required to be registered to vote such as birth certificate, passport, and ID card are issues that remain to be addressed in the laws.

“The possibility of Gambians abroad not to come out and vote for fear of being targeted as undocumented migrants could be an issue that would also require proper sensitisation and whether those with dual citizenship would be allowed to vote is another issue.”

He said the commission is undertaking study tours to neighbouring countries to understand diaspora voting, which has so far taking them to Cape Verde, and they are inline to go to Sierra lean and Senegal.

Chairman Njie said there is still uncertainty and they do not know yet whether the country is prepared for the eminent referendum maybe October or November but said the right for Gambians to vote and be voted for is constitutionally guaranteed.

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