Statement by Alieu Momarr Njai, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), at a Press Conference held at the launching of activities leading to the Presidential Election slated for 1st December 2016.

       DATE:   Tuesday, 6th September 2016
      VENUE:    Election House, Bertil Harding Highway


I welcome you all to the IEC and to our first press conference this year.

I wish to introduce to you the new Commission. I am Alieu Momarr Njai, Chairman of the Commission, Mr Malleh Sallah, Vice Chairman, Mrs. Isatou Jallow-Ndure, Mr. Anthony Robert Secka and Alhaji Lamin Cham Commission Members.

The year 2016 is a very busy year for the Commission. First among its activities was the Supplementary registration of electors (voters) which started on Thursday 14th January and ended on 12th March 2016. The total number of registrants during the supplementary registration is 89, 649. The number of voters now stands at 886,578 as opposed to 796,929 in 2011. The number of polling stations is 1422 as opposed to 1300 in 2011.

There is a replacement of lost, mutilated and defaced cards going on at the Election House and all IEC Regional Offices. This exercise commenced on1st June and will end on 29th September 2016. A replaced voting card attracts a minimal fee of D100.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

A re-demarcation of some constituencies was carried out and the number of constituencies is now 53. A fresh registration was not conducted in the affected areas but the Commission will resort to putting constituency stickers on the voting cards of the affected voters to bring that situation in consonance with the law on Election Day.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Very imminent on the IEC calendar this year, is the Presidential Election, and this press conference will focus on that landmark exercise that will lead us into another era of electoral evolution and political growth and maturity.

It is clear to all present here that, elections are universally recognized to form a very important role in safeguarding the desired peaceful environment of any nation. I am of the strong believe that at the end of this interaction all of you here present, will go back to your various locations with well prepared minds about elections with regard to the universally accepted standards of democracy and good governance.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me take this opportunity to express sincerely the Independent Electoral Commission’s stance of upholding electoral integrity. Integrity is a difficult concept to define though, but an indispensable element of a democratic system of government as we very well desire for the Gambian situation. The concept of integrity is innate to the principles of democracy. Thus, this concept contributes immensely to the administration of free and fair elections, without which democracy would be compromised.

It is in view of this, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, that the Independent Electoral Commission is set out to define election integrity as a set of standards based on democratic principles, measures and mechanisms for protecting free and fair elections.

An election is the outcome of a complex process requiring the participation of a multitude of players such as: Election officials, government officials, political parties and politicians, security agents, Civil Society Organisations, donor agencies, the media, diplomatic missions, the judiciary and above all, the electorate. This is to say to you once again that, the electoral process of the Gambia is a business for all and that we all have to endeavour to see the full realization of a strong electoral process which will stand out to be admired by others in the Region and the world at large.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We all know that there are winners and losers in every election. The stakes may be high, and temptation may be great to ensure victory through illegal or morally questionable means in some countries. Election results may be rigged to predetermine who will win or lose, and election may be disrupted, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the process, but I stand here today to pronounce to you that, as far as our concerted efforts are in play, this will never be the case in our dear country. The Independent Electoral Commission believes that an election without integrity subverts the purpose of a democratic election, and cannot be considered fair and equitable. The IEC will ever concentrate on conducting free and fair elections. This, I believe we will ever achieve by upholding governing principles such as: respect for principles of electoral democracy; ethical conduct; accuracy and transparency. Please note that these governing principles guarantee free and fair elections as essential conditions for election uprightness. A free election on one hand depends on freedom of speech, assembly, association and movement, and freedom from fear. A fair election on the other hand depends on transparent electoral process, equitable electoral legislation and systems, equal opportunities for all participants, an independent and impartial elections commission, and absence of intimidation, proper procedures, and acceptance of the electoral results. Therefore, I wish to appeal to all stakeholders to avoid violence of any sort and make this election violent free.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The Independent Electoral Commission, in exercise of its mandate under section 46 of the Constitution of The Gambia and Section 40 of the Elections Act, wishes to inform the general public that election to the office of President of the Republic of The Gambia will be conducted on Thursday 1st December 2016.

The public is hereby informed that the IEC, acting under Section 47 of the Constitution and 42(1) of the Elections Act will receive nomination of candidates for the said election of President of the Republic of the Gambia from 7th to 10th November 2016 between the hours of 8 o’clock in the forenoon and 4 o’clock in the afternoon at the IEC Headquarters, Bertil Harding Highway.

In exercise of its powers given in Section 85 of the Elections Act, the IEC wishes to announce that the campaign period for the said election will be held from Wednesday, 16th November 2016 to Tuesday, 29th November 2016.

The public is hereby also notified under Section 5(2) of the Elections Act that the appointed Returning Officer for the election of the Office of the President of the Republic of the Gambia is Alieu Momarr Njai, Chairman of the IEC.

Nomination papers can be collected from the IEC Headquarters from 3rd October 2016.

Polls will open at 8am and close at 5pm. Counting of ballots will be done immediately after the close of polls. In essence, the Polling Stations would be converted to Counting Centres.

The IEC is partnering with the NCCE and other stakeholders in order to engage on massive voter sensitisation. This is made possible with funding from the Government and UNDP.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Please be informed that the Interparty Committee has been reactivated and they meet periodically at the Election House. This is a forum in which political parties discuss issues pertinent to politics, elections and the electoral environment.

I want to reiterate the fact that throughout the electoral process, political party agents are present – from registration to declaration of results. Therefore, the electoral process is transparent, free and fair.

To conclude, I wish to take this opportunity to thank you all for gracing this occasion. “The Gambia Decides; I am voting, are you?” This is the theme for this cycle of elections – 2016-2018.

I thank you for your audience.

Editors note: The Gambia has a population of 1.8 million inhabitants and there are 53 constituencies, according to the IEC Chairman. The IEC Chairman also told the press that counting of results is going to be on the spot and the final results will be made known to the public on Friday  December 2nd. 

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