By Lamin Sanyang

 

Alieu Momar Njai, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission IEC has said that the President of the Republic Adama Barrow is totally independent from all the various political parties who are contesting in the upcoming national assembly election.

Talking to this medium at his office at the Election House on Bertil Harding Highway, Njai talked about the president’s nationwide tour, election budget and party affiliation of aspirant candidates contesting in the upcoming national assembly elections amongst other things.

“The president should be totally independent, ” IEC Chairman, Alieu Momar Njai said.

Mr. Njai who has presided over the last presidential elections ending 22 years of dictatorship said the coalition agreement involved seven political parties that worked as one unit resulting in the defeat of the incumbent but are now split into hundreds of candidates vying for 53 national assembly seats.

“There is no candidate representing the coalition. Each of them are representing their respective party lines,” IEC Chairman pointed out.

He added: “It will be difficult for the president to address the electorates on this issue.”

Njai was questioned about the president’s tour whether it would not affect the ongoing national assembly campaign since this is the first time that a president of The Republic is embarking on a nationwide tour during the national assembly campaign period. He answered in the negative, saying the president’s countrywide tour is in accordance with the Constitution. He added that the president is also mindful about the concerns raised. Many registered concern that the cabinet ministers in the president’s entourage are party leaders whose candidates are contesting in the national assembly elections. Observers questioned whether they may try to politicize the tour.

“It will be difficult for him to say vote any candidate,” he said.

The IEC Chairman also said they have already notified their regional offices all over the country about the president’s nationwide tour itenary.

The former President Yahya Jammeh used to collect millions of money from the government departments, agencies and organs to finance his tours, festivals and other related activities. That was the order of the day during Jammeh’s era. The new government that took office in less than 3 months is embarking on a nationwide tour and nothing is said about the finances of the tour or the amount allocated. It is not clear whether the new government is following the same trend of the previous government.

Chairman Njai when answering questions about the funds for the upcoming national assembly election said the past government has budgeted what he called elections cycle that includes presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. He also talked about the interventions of donor agencies like the EU and UNDP to ensure there is free, fair and transparent election. He said the reduction of deposits to contest national assembly profile from fifty thousands to five thousands dalasi has resulted in the huge influx of candidates.

Meanwhile, Chairman Njai said following the defeat of the incumbent a new era has come into being which is now described as a New Gambia with freedom, security, peace and tranquility.