Following his nomination as the Presidential Candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) for the December 1, 2016 Presidential Elections during a party congress held on February 24, 2016, Hon. Halifa Sallah made the following pledges to the electorate at the party’s Convention held on March 19, 2016:
1. I, Halifa Sallah, hereby declare before the whole people that if elected President I will serve only one term which according to section 63 of the Constitution is for period of five years.
2. I, Halifa Sallah, hereby declare before the whole people that if elected President, our Cabinet will introduce a Bill to secure the following constitutional amendments:
(a) The establishment of a two four year term limit to the presidency of The Gambia;
(b) The establishment of one-third gender parity in the composition of Cabinet and all other representative institutions through proportional representation. Special interest groups like the physically challenged shall be given special consideration;
(c) The restoration of the absolute majority so that no person shall be elected as President on the first ballot unless the votes cast in his or her favour at the election are more than fifty percent of the total number of votes validly cast at that election;
(d) The abrogation of the upper age limit under section 62 of the Constitution which deters competent people from exercising their right to be elected as enshrined under section 26 of the Constitution which is a fundamental political right;
(e) The safeguarding of the separation of powers by giving parliamentarians and judges immunities from removal from office by the executive. Provisions shall be made so that parliamentarians who are dismissed from their parties shall automatically become independent members of parliament. Judges would be appointed by a service commission and removed only through impeachment after judicial and parliamentary inquiry.
3. I, Halifa Sallah, hereby declare before the whole people that if elected President, I will do away with all the monarchical privileges of the presidency through constitutional, legal, administrative and cultural reforms.
4. I, Halifa Sallah, hereby declare before the whole people that if elected President, I will not hold any other office of profit or emolument, whether public or private, occupy other position carrying the right to remuneration for the rendering of services, or directly or indirectly carry on any trade, business or other undertakings.
These pledges were part of an acceptance speech that marks the beginning of what will be his second attempt to vie for the highest post in The Gambia. Composed and confident, Sallah took to the stage and proceeded to assure an exhausted nation of his intent to restore these brutalized people’s faith in government back.
Observers have noted that the nobility of these pledges should give the opposition camp reason to fight harder than in the past to win this coming election. Of particular significance is the issue of electoral reforms which seem to dominate the pledge that they hope will be the foremost agenda of the parties as they go through this election cycle instead of waiting until after the elections, at which point, because of ironically these very issues, the elections would have been stolen by the incumbent.
The looming March 31st deadline for parties to conform to the new laws that many observers note are meant to cripple the opposition parties, is of major concern to many. How things will play out then is still anyone’s guess, but if history is any indication, the parties should have reason to brace up for undemocratic, unconstitutional, and unfair maneuvering from the Yahya Jammeh handpicked Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) led by Mustapha Carayol, whose mandate has already expired in the first place. The PDOIS party’s and counterparts in the other Opposition parties’ resolve as far as achieving the above pledges will be fully tested then.