Registration of voters have started in The Gambia ahead of the country’s December 4th Presidential elections. However, hopes to have the diasporan community registered, have been dashed away, as the Chairman of Gambia’s electoral commission says the constitution must be amended before franchise can extended to Gambians living in the diaspora.
Registration of voters started in earnest on Saturday. So far, no incident has been reported according to Sambujang Njie, the Chief election officer for Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission.
“The process is ongoing, and everything is so far so good, even though during the start of the registration, like any other major massive activity, we have some hitches, the generators and the lights, but they are being resolved and most of The Gambians who turned out at the registration centers to register have received their cards,” Mr. Njie told me in an interview.
Gambians are going to the polls on December 4th, 2021 to elect a post transition President. This followed the ushering of a new democratic dispensation in December of 2016 after decades long dictatorial rule.
There are requirements for one to be issued a voters’ card: Having a birth certificate, passport and an Identity cards are among the requirements. Applicants who do not have the set requirements, are required to secure an attestation from local government leader.
“Attestation is part and parcel of the requirement of the law for one to be registered and I said that we cannot operate of the parameters of the law, out of the ambits of the law, we can only operate within the ambits of the law and the law has say for one to be registered, you must be a Gambian, you must be 18 years or older, or you will be 18 years by the next election date, and you must be resident or was born in a constituency,” Njie added.
Despite the supreme court’s recent ruling that diasporan Gambians should be availed the right to register and vote, the Chairman of IEC Alieu Mamar Njie says such registration might not be possible this year.
“It is not likely because the constitution says there are 53 constituencies in The Gambia, and you can only vote within those 53 constituencies, and the diaspora needs five constituencies. The constitution must be amended to facilitate the diaspora with their five constituencies. You can only vote within a constituency,” the IEC Chairman Mr. Alieu Mamar Njie remarked.
Njie says unless the relevant provision of the constitution is amended, it wouldn’t be possible for franchise to be extended to Gambians living overseas.
The only way disaporan Gambians can register is by visiting home. The registration exercise is expected to end in July.