BREAKING NEWS: THE APPEAL COURT RULING ON THE BANJUL MAYOR’S VOTER ATTESTATION CASE, COULD IMPACT ON THE OUTCOME OF THE COMING ELECTIONS IF THE ILLEGALLY REGISTERED 2000 REGISTERED VOTERS ARE LEFT ON THE IEC VOTER REGISTER; LOSING CANDIDATES COULD FILE PETITIONS IF THERE IS A NARROW MARGIN VICTORY-LAWYER FATTY OBSERVES!

Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai

The lawyer, who represented Gambia’s Civil Society groups in the just concluded appeal case that was filed by the Banjul Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe, contesting a high court judgment in which the court had earlier ruled that she and the electoral commission had acted illegally by issuing voters cards to Banjul residents through the form of an attestation, and was upheld by the Appeal Court, has warned that the Appeal Court’s ruling could affect the outcome of the upcoming elections, Freedom Newspaper can report. Lawyer Alhagie Abdoulie Fatty, who was speaking in an interview with Freedom radio Gambia, further noted that any narrow victory margin in the upcoming polls, could warrant political parties or candidates filing a petition at the Supreme court to dispute the legitimacy of the polls.

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The Gambia Court of Appeal on Tuesday delivered a landmark judgment, in which it upheld the earlier ruling of the High Court that the Banjul Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe doesn’t have the constitutional powers to issue attestations for voters’ cards applicants. The court also ruled that the Electoral Commission doesn’t have the powers to confer such responsibility to the Banjul Mayor.

Dissatisfied with the court’s ruling, Mayor Lowe filed an appeal, asking the Appeal Court to set aside the High Court’s judgment. She claimed that she hasn’t violated the law as ruled by the court.

A three Appeal Court judges heard her appeal. Two of the judges Omar Njie and Amina Saho Ceesay have ruled that the Mayor doesn’t have the powers to attest voters to obtain voters cards. The two judges also said the IEC doesn’t have the powers to confer such a responsibility to the Banjul Mayor. However, Justice Haddy Roche dissented. She disagrees with her colleagues.

When contacted for comment, lawyer Alhagie Abdoulie Fatty, who represented the victorious Civil Society groups observed that Tueday’s judgment, is likely going to have an impact on the outcome of the upcoming polls. He cited the possibilities of losing candidates invoking the court judgment in their election petitions.

“This may turn out to be problematic. If the margins are very small in the December elections, so, you may have a party, a candidate that may file something asking the Supreme court to cancel the elections results if the margins are very narrow,” Fatty remarked.

According to the leading Gambian lawyer, over two thousand registered voters have been affected by the court decision.

“This may be a ground for petition. We know for now that since the law has been interfered with; we know that at least two thousand people may vote in the December election, people who do not have the legal power to do so because they should have been registered or the way they were registered was wrong and therefore it calls into question. So, even if one person, it affects the credibility and the fairness of the election and therefore may be raised by somebody. You have raised a very fair point, it brings into question: the credibility, the fairness and ultimately the legitimacy of the whole exercise. If people are voting who do not have legal power, who should not have had the power to do so because the way in which they obtained those documents were improper legally,” Fatty told me in a phone interview on the line to Banjul.

Fatty says the names of the affected voters haven’t been expunged from the IEC main electoral register, adding that this could create problems in the future if not addressed.

When asked whether it is possible for the IEC to take corrective measures by deleting the names of affected voters from its voter register database, Fatty responded in the negative.

“I don’t think at this stage, the IEC have the power to do that, if they did that, I think they will be committing another unlawful exercise or acts. So, I don’t think they have the power to do that,” Fatty remarked.

Fatty has noted that the Banjul Mayor has acted based on the responsibility that was conferred to her by the electoral commission to attest voters cards’ applicants. He is of the view that the court ruling is an indictment on the Independent Electoral Commission.

“I don’t think the Mayor acted out of malice, did anything un-thought, it is simply that she was given authority by the IEC to do something that the IEC didn’t have the power to do and therefore she acted on the powers conferred on her by the IEC, which the court said she didn’t have the power. This is not an indictment on the Mayor.  You can indict her on the IEC, but it is just the principle, the law regulating elections and voter registration wasn’t fully complied with,” Fatty noted.

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