Sunday, April 15, 2012
Mansabanko Account's Of The National Assembly Polls
By Ebrima Bah
Following the re-election of President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh in last year’s Presidential race, Gambians on 29 March, 2012 once headed to polls to elect a new badge of National Assembly Members for a five year parliamentary .
The election went smoothly virtually in absolute silence. By silence here is meant the absence of the usual noise and hullabaloo associated with Gambian elections leaving the greater number of the electorate oblivious to the day’s major activity on that election day.
The election took place at precisely 510 polling stations in 23 out of 48 constituencies. They well managed by 92 assistant returning officers across the country’s seven administrative regions on that Thursday 29 March.
Another 792 polling centres did not take part in the electoral process. thanks to the boycott staged by six of seven opposition parties.
Out of the opposition parties that took part in the preceding Presidential polls, the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) became a “blackleg” this boycott of the National Assembly election of March 29, 2012.
The Hamat Bah led National Reconciliation Party (NRP) contested eight (8) constituencies along with 18 independent candidates. The ruling APRC filed nominations in all the 48 constituences in the country of which 25 went unopposed.The boycott gave the election an unnoticeable environment, especially for non-newspaper readers. Even though the print press spared no effort to cover the pollings, at Bakoteh football field the games proceeded with usual cheers and loud applauses. Indeed, some of the children could not tell if it was election day despite the fact that the day was a school holiday for them. There were still others who could not relate this national public holiday with the parliamentary elections. Some of them argued that the presidential election had already been conducted, and “Yahya A.J.J.Jammeh is the winner.” As they queried, “What else is the to vote for within a short period of time from the presidential election?” It therefore appeared that, talking to these children was in itself a game on election matters. They were clearly interested to know something about the political administration.
In the journey from Sukuta to Westfield brought up similar scenerios. From Tippa Garage to London Corner the traffic was jammed. Traffic police had to intervene to restore the rules of the road. No wonder then that at Senegambia and Brikama garages, business for commercial vehicle drivers was just normal. Kemo Ceesay. a Garage Chief (Chef de garage) at the Banjul garage in Serekunda said the election had not hampered the work of drivers at his garage. For him, “it was important to allow the traffic to go, as drivers entirely depend on the income generated by their vehicles. So, if traffic is stopped, even the electorate may not be able to come out to vote”, he said.
Polling stations in Serrekunda Central were this time on the Mosque Road side thereby allowing pedestrians and motor traffic to got their different ways. A presiding officer there said the traffic does no harm to the election process despite the noise emanating from the garage. He was however quick to point out that, if at any point in time the traffic should disrupt, voting then they will alert the police to take action.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) believed it had done all the campaign necessary to educate the public on the importance of the parliamentary elections. The commission has gone round across the country to meet with relevant stakeholders in seeking their support towards the conduct of a free, fair and transparent election. These exercises were in addition to its routine mass media campaign by way of press conferences and talk shows over radio and television and through the print medium. There was even an electronic noticeboard at Westfield Clinic this time.
The IEC’s Director of Training and Communications, Joseph Colley, said the commission had made all preparations under its mandate. To him it would therefore be peoples’ own fault if they failed to value elections and its proceedings. Nothing more and nothing less. He said “What is left, is to go on to polls” and that is the duty all registered citizensshould exercise by rights.
At The Polls
Election statistics showed that a total 154,950 (one hundred and fifty-four thousands, nine hundred and fifty) of the electorate cast votes out of a total 308,489 (three hundred and eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-nine) representing fifty percent (50%) of voter turnout. The opposition parties boycott of the election prevented 796, 929 registered Gambians to vote, ruling party candidates simply went unopposed in twenty-five (25) constituencies.
In the provinces, the highest voter turnout percentage was recorded in Niamina Dankunku constituency with 78% percent. This was where the only NRP sponsored candidate won the seat in a landslide. Niamina West came second with seventy-six percent (76%) turnout in favour of the APRC sponsored candidate. This contrasts with the home constituency of Hamat Bah, leader of the NRP Party, who lost with 74% vote against him.
Other constituencies on the record of high voter response include Foni Jarrol and Lower Badibu with seventy-three percent (73%) while Nianija and Sabach Sanjal recorded seventy-two (72) and seventy-one (71) percents respectively.
The Kanifing Municipality registered the lowest percentage of electorate turnout earning a total of thirty-two (32%). Contenders within this municipality were up to grab the seat for Jeshwang, Bakau and Serrekunda Central constituencies. Jeshwang earned forty-six percent, Bakau thirty-four percent all in favour of the APRC. But it appeared that the electorate in Serrekunda Central were the least interested in the election. Voter apathy in this constituency earned twenty-six percent, the least percentage of votes cast at the election across the country.
An voter at the Ghadafi Mosque in Serekunda Central who was in favour of the boycott was telling journalists to go away and sit at home. Why? His response was that, “there is no need to come out because all the parliamentary candidates are looking for their selfish interests. No one can stop them. So it is needless to waste your time and energy.”
At midday, not even a quarter of expected voters had cast their votes in the nine polling stations under the supervision of Danial Assan Gai, Assistan Returning Officer for Serrekunda Central. He believed that “We the Gambians still lack the knowledge with regards to National Assembly elections. I don’t think we are taking it seriously. It is so pathetic,” he said.
This view was re-echoed by Alhagie Sowe, a Presiding Officer at Serrekunda Mosque Road. At the time of speaking to the press, his polling station was completely empty with no sign of voter presence in the area. While a polling station at Serrekunda Bartez was expecting a total of over six hundreds (over 600) voters, it was less than one hundred (less than 100) who have turned up to vote near the closing hour for polls.
While the opposition parties did not participate in the National Assembly elections, the “IEC made it categorically clear that it will not postpone the polls. On the other hand, the ruling APRC lost four parliamentary seats to independent candidates and one seat for the NRP Party. It means the APRC will continue to enjoy absolute majority in the parliament, with a total number of forty-three representatives out of 48.