By Dibba Chaku
The Independent Electoral Commission being the referee responsible for conducting elections in The Gambia should drift away from being notorious for habitual errors and gravitate towards operational excellence for the citizens to continue to have confidence in the electioneering process. This is a Commission that received a plethora of commendation for the pivotal role it played in ensuring that the will of the Gambian people was not subverted in the 2016 presidential election. One would have expected the IEC to build on that success, but the habitual errors and the feckless performance from this institution is forcing us to question the level of preparedness of the referee in this year’s election.
The last time that The Gambia had a presidential election was in December of 2016. One institution that is certainly not oblivious of the fact that the next round of presidential elections will be held in December 2021 is the IEC. That gives them ample time to prepare for this monumental event by streamlining and improving on their processes from voter registration, nomination of candidates, to the conduct of the elections. How did they perform at the voter registration stage? They issued a statement-long press release that the registration exercise was postponed until further notice, just a week before the commencement date of the voter registration. After the registration exercise, they told us that there were multiple registrations by some people. The IEC retracted that statement later by saying that was an error on their part. Then came the nominations which they made look like it was some WAEC exam meant to set a trap for candidates to fall into, and many fell into that trap, hence the many rejections. The sequel of events surrounding the CA and GMC court cases against the IEC is a clear indication that the institution’s performance is just not good enough.
The final leg of this contest is the casting of the ballots, collation, and declaration of the winner. The IEC keeps inundating us with the assurance that the presidential election will be free, fair, and credible. We may not doubt that but their track record of committing errors, and inability to do it right the first time are reasons to question their level of preparedness. Looking at the number of candidates contesting in this year’s elections, the tenacity of Gambians in the democratization process, and the euphoria surrounding the political campaign, it is without a jot of doubt that this election is unprecedented. Therefore, the independent referee to conduct such a high-stake election cannot be unprepared and unbothered. They need to dot their i’s and cross their t’s come December 4. Failing to do that means this institution does not understand that its decisions and actions have more profound consequences than one may think. Election 2021 is a monumental event that Gambian voters are looking forward to, considering the level of political activity in the country despite the global pandemic that has ravaged communities and confronted every level of the world economy. The quality of refereeing in this national event should neither be mediocre nor feckless.