Is the glut of political parties healthy for Gambia’s political system?

Ideally, the more parties we have, the better for political participation. That will enable more people to participate actively in politics; considering the fact that their interest will be better represented. But the problem we have in The Gambia is that many of these parties do not have what it takes to operate as a political party.

There’s saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. A few big parties assume the role of opposition, so, for what purpose are we registering more parties?

Political parties are supposed to have offices across a number of regions nationwide. Many of them are supposed to perform some basic functions of a political party, including interest aggregation, articulation and even political education. But many of them are not able to do it.

The Independent  Electoral Commission (IEC) is still registering fresh batch of “political parties” which I regard as nothing but NGOs.If the number of parties we have in The Gambia at present is not up to a 20, it is fast inching to that number. I wonder whether this glut of political parties was the intendment of the apostles of free association.

The fact is that registering more parties is awkward and unnecessary and will only confuse voters in a country with a population of only two Millions and less than 300,000 active voters.

Though, we cannot rule out the fact that these minor parties that are registering can transform into major political parties.But again, the ideological space does not allow for so many parties.People can always stick to two or three political parties.
IEC is not the one creating this problem, the problem is already embedded in our constitution and I do not think any good will come out of reviewing the constitution in this regard. Let’s face the fact, what really is the benefit of having so many political parties that we can’t even know? What is the merit in registering a plethora of political parties that exist only in the briefcase of their promoters and which have no known roots among the masses for whom political parties serve? What are the benefits in registering husband-and-wife political parties with no base and no known conviction as to drive the masses to a certain goal?

In registering many parties and serving the ends of providing enough shades for Gambians to freely express themselves, the end must not be to grant every tom, dick and harry that expresses interest to form a party, the license to so do but to form parties that have the needed impetus to attract many Gambians to use them as vehicles to achieve certain goals.The driving force in forming and registering political parties must be the desire to mass around a common political platform with shared political values and beliefs so as to achieve goals that are intrinsically tied to the pursuit of the directive principles of state policies. It is not to grant political parties licenses for fun, for that looks like what is happening presently with the registering of political parties; most of which lack even the capacity to articulate their goals and visions and certainly can’t serve as drivers for mass political movement that can alter things for Gambians.

Yes, there is the need to ensure that the political space is wide enough for all Gambians to berth. There is a need to generalize the space for participation. There is need to widen the platform of political participation to accommodate the divergent interests in our country. But then, the diversification must not be the end in itself. Sadly, that is what we obtained in The Gambia today, with the flippant formation and registration of political parties that don’t have influence at even family levels and can’t even mobilize group of chickens. It seems that most Gambians achieve satiation today by having their parties registered and nothing more.Political parties must be mass movements that attract the interest and active participation of the masses.This is needed for these parties to achieve measurable degrees of change where they operate. With this capability to achieve change, it is easy for political parties to recruit more Gambians to their fold, exert tremendous levels of influence and serve as agents for social change.

These “political parties “ ought to satisfy certain requirements but I wonder whether these basic ground rules are considered  in the registration of associations as political parties because most of the parties registered in The Gambia today exist only in names and make no impression in the minds of most Gambians.

For Example Mai Fatty’s NGO(GMC) has never won a parliamentary seat and was only able to gained 0.3% of the total votes during the parliamentary elections, Henry Gomez’s GPDP is a family political party and never even participated in a parliamentary election. Even Henry admitted on live TV that his wife is the Deputy Party leader.These so called political parties are stunted in vision and spread and lack the requisite accouterments to be called political parties.

I hope in our extant electoral laws; provisions are made to deregister parties that fall short of minimum satisfactory performance during elections. The idea is to leave only viable parties as survivors otherwise the situation will degenerate to a level where the country is saddled with hundreds of dysfunctional parties that liter our political space and constitute clogs to smooth democratic practices. It is trite that after every election, the performance of every political party is reviewed by the Independent Electoral Commission. Any party that did not achieve a certain threshold of success during the election will have it certificate withdrawn and subsequently deregistered as a political party.That way, a process of filtering will ensure the country does not have an unwieldy number of parties that exist only in names that are hardly known beyond the few promoters of the party.

It is my honest view that fora party to survive beyond each election, such party must achieve at least a fiver per cent success in the election otherwise, it ought to be deregistered and delisted to create room for newer aspirants. Through this process of filtration, parties will compete healthily with each other and not for inactive parties to stagnantly clog the space.

There should be provisions in our electoral law for this necessary filtering.

What happens is that most of them exist to wheel and deal with bigger parties, often trading flippant support and serving as mercenaries to the bigger parties. This ought to be an aberration in a sane democratic space.

We must admit the urgency for most of these parties to be de-registered so as to unclog the party system in The Gambia and reduce the huge cost incurred by having so many ineffective parties on our ballot. There is no doubt that if we allow this trend to continue, we will soon get to a point where we will even ran out of party color and symbols. Methinks that, at most, the country should have five viable parties and not hundreds of mushroom parties that add nothing to our democratic development.

If IEC does the necessary filtering process based on performance during elections, we will easily achieve that desire for no one will form parties that are deregistered soon after formation because it can’t muster the needed electoral success to survive beyond one election.

Let IEC sit up and do the needful. Let parties’ ability to survive depend on its performance during elections so we can have viable and strong parties instead of numerous mushroom parties that have no spread and influence. After each general election, let parties that do not meet a specific minimum performance level be weeded out while rooms would be created for new ones. If IEC does this, it will succeed in not only leaving the political participatory space free for mass participation but also in creating borderless chances for new parties to come on board and work for their survival and not remain as dormant features on the country’s political space. In the upcoming 2021 elections, the race is only between the GDC, UDP, APRC,NRP and PDOIS,the rest are appendages.


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