27 May 2011

Gambia News: What democracy denies its people the right to vote? (#Gambia)

(Daily News)As Gambians at home register for the 2011 presidential election; Gambians abroad remain disenfranchised, despite fifteen years of empty promises and artificial obstacles by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The official quotes below say it all:
 “The Commission has been mandated by the Elections Decree (Section 11) to provide a register of voters in foreign countries. Such a mandate is being looked into,” (IEC Website).
“Presently, Gambians living abroad have the option of returning to the Gambia during registration periods and register within their Constituencies of origin. This will mean that it is only in this type of registration that they can vote during National or Local Elections, until such a time that a register of voters in foreign countries become feasible,” (IEC Website).
At this snail-pace, Diaspora Gambians will never have the right to vote in Gambian national elections, because fifteen years after the 1996 presidential polls, the Commission is “still looking into it.”
This is not a case of bad faith on my part- far from it. It is the realization that the words of The Commission are official spin, empty rhetoric intended to satisfy donors, while denying Diaspora Gambians their rights in order to maintain the status-quo.
The Commission and the Jammeh regime have no intention, nor are they interested, in extending the franchise to Diaspora Gambians. This is so, despite readily available funds from the Commonwealth and other donor countries.
In this day of sophisticated computer software registering less than 300, 000 Gambians resident abroad should not be as daunting as it was even ten years ago. Many countries in Africa, and neighboring Senegal, in particular, have extended the vote to their citizens abroad, recognizing among other things, their collective contribution to national development through remittances and investments in land and businesses.
It is laughable to expect Gambians in their thousands to return home to cast a ballot in their “constituencies of origin.”
What an utter waste of valuable resources that could, otherwise, be spent to benefit Gambians at home. Why make it so difficult for Diaspora Gambians to exercise such a fundamental right?
The answer is simple—they need our monthly remittances, not our vote, out of fear that Jammeh would be flushed out; even though he now enjoys considerable support among pockets of Gambians abroad.
What democracy denies its people the right to vote?
The IEC and Jammeh are not entirely at fault. The Opposition political party aficionados are just as complicit. Their parties remain disorganized, splintered and bututless; and for the most part are themselves paralyzed by fear— never attempting to challenge the constitutionality of this illegal state of affairs.
Rather than compromise, which is the art of politics, they are consumed by distrust, as they wallow in trite recrimination against one another- all hoping against all odds that they too shall become president someday.
This is at best delusional grandstanding even though all it takes to win is to form a united front against Jammeh. This is not rocket science but a simple strategy. Get the rascals out and then duke it out amongst yourselves.
Thus, the 2011 presidential election results are a foregone conclusion! You do not have to be a political scientist or bantaba pundit to figure this one out.
It seems all Gambians know this except the party leaders that plan to run and be humiliated. Jammeh and his APRC party will trounce any and all who dare stand his way. He has the money, arms and threatens to use them, which he will, if cornered.
Did he not arrest and imprison Femi Peters with impunity, without a whimper? Does Jammeh not use state media, while denying Opposition political heads their right to do so? Does he not have the IEC in his pocket and hires and fires at will its members? Does the Constitution not favor him and his kind? Need I go on?
How can Gambians at home and those in the Diaspora salvage the 2011 presidential election? If you cannot vote; vote with your wallet, and threaten to withhold the monthly “fish-money.”  Demand that relatives vote and vote for the candidate that stands the best chance of winning.
That happens to be Ousainou Darboe. Demand that all Opposition parties and aficionados rally behind Darboe, this once and see what happens. Darboe must now take a bold move, take the bull by its horns and make deals with the other party leaders- promise them the moon and get them on his side. Once in office, establish a union government to run the country for a one five-year term, while putting the necessary instruments and environment in place for a free and fair presidential poll.
This may well be the antidote to the political impasse that currently grips the country. With this strategy, Jammeh can have all the money, media, IEC and arms on his side and still be flushed out of office. Will the PPP, NRP, PDOIS leadership rally behind Darboe or would they rather see Jammeh be handed a fourth five-year term? This is the question and the choice is clear to all.

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