In the Gambia where money rules the roost, he who pays the piper calls the tune. As long as Yaya Jammeh continues to bankroll the IEC’s operational costs, he has the unfair advantage over all potential candidates to continue winning elections.

In the absence of donor support, the murky funding of the 2016 presidential elections in this our tiny country of 1.8m people could play a big role in the outcome of voting. One of the factors that can impact the outcome of the elections is – money. A fact that is largely ignored by all those so-called political commentators/ analysts spewing gratuitous ideas about the candidatures of each the opposition candidates

Elections cost money and if the 2016 presidential elections will be entirely funded by the government of Yaya Jammeh, then the results of this year’s election have already been determined. Like any other ministry or department, the commission is funded principally by budgetary allocation from the government. With the exorbitant increases in the registration fees of political parties we wait for the PAC/PEC review to see how this money will be spent.

Despite the statement by the IEC trying to assert its independence and give assurance of a free and fair elections, there will never be peaceful democratic change under Yaya Jammeh so long as his government is providing the funds to pay the salary of the IEC chairman, the allowances of the commission members, the fuel for the commission’s fleet of vehicles, the wages of the drivers and election officials as well as the media and communications expenses, not to also mention the high costs of updating the voter registration lists.

During the 2011 elections, the only external assistance to the commission came from the UNDP, which contributed $ 100,000 for the voter education exercise. This year around that amount was increased to $ 350 thousand for the same purpose. The participation of international observers which included the commonwealth in the last elections contribute towards deepening of democracy in the country and lend credence to the election results.  Each observer mission paid for its travelling and accommodation costs of its staff.

With the withdrawal of the Gambia from the commonwealth, there would not be any observers from that body this year, however, Ecowas has just given assurances that it will send observer mission this time round thanks to Jammeh’s skillful placement of Edward Singharteh at the helm of that organization.

Beating Jammeh in this year’s presidential election, a man with a reputation for buying loyalty and support coupled with the unique advantage of controlling the central bank’s ability to print more money to be used for electioneering, will be a far-fetched political reality.

Whether some of Jammeh’s political opponents are receiving significant funding from abroad or not, money and socio-economic interests drive politics in our country to the detriment of serving the interests of our citizens.

It will be difficult to guarantee a relatively even playing field as long as Yaya Jammeh and his government continue to bankroll the activities of the IEC. Democracy is yet to bring total freedom for Gambians as long as a disunited and poorly-funded opposition political parties lack the foresight to put national interest before party political interests. Will the case for the 2016 presidential elections be a case of “he who pays the piper…”? Time will tell!

The Insider Analyst

My next piece will attempt to scrutinize the IEC voter registration list by constituency compared with the GBOS provisional 2013 population Census results. The discrepancy is unbelievable, Stay tuned…

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