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ECOWAS election observation mission commends gambians for peaceful parliamentary polls
Group Photo of ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Gambia’s Parliamentary elections

Banjul, 8th April 2017. The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) has praised Gambians for their peaceful conduct and high sense of patriotism as well as the professionalism exhibited by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and its agents during the country’s 6thApril 2017 National Assembly elections.

“The conduct of the 6th April 2017 Legislative elections has demonstrated the commitment of The Gambian people to a functional democracy,” the 20-member Mission said in a four-page Preliminary Declaration read by Head of Mission Prof. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Ghana’s former Election Commission Chair, at a press conference in Banjul, the Gambian capital on 7th April 2017.

He also commended the Police Service, political parties and candidates for their conduct during voting, counting, and results collation processes.

The Mission called on the 53 newly elected lawmakers to see their election as a unique opportunity and a call to national service for the wellbeing of all Gambians and the progress and development of the new Gambia.

“They should also exercise magnanimity in victory,” the Mission said, and appealed to the unsuccessful candidates to accept the outcome of the polls as the will of their constituents, and in the event of genuine grievances, to resort exclusively to legal means to seek redress.

Despite the smooth conduct of the exercise, the Mission observed a “relatively lower turnout of voters” compared to the 1st December 2016 Presidential elections.

It therefore, recommended that ahead of future elections, the IEC and political parties should put more efforts to educate and sensitize the citizens on the importance of active participation in all national elections.

“Furthermore, it may be expedient in the future to consider holding both legislative and presidential elections on the same day in order to minimize the cost of organizing elections and addressing the issue of low voter turnout,” the ECOWAS Mission added.

It expressed its gratitude to the people of The Gambia and various stakeholders involved in the organization of elections for the security and logistics measures put in place to facilitate the deployment of observers, which enabled them to effectively accomplish their mission.

The Mission noted the early arrival of polling officials at polling stations on Election Day, which enabled voting to commence within the stipulated time in most polling centres, as well as the presence in sufficient qualities of electoral materials at the polling stations across the country.

“There was adequate representation of women among the polling officials and party agents,” it observed, although from the results released by the IEC, there were only three women among the 53 victorious candidates. According Gambia’s Constitution, the President is to appoint five other members of the 58-seat Parliament.

The ECOWAS Mission also noted that the elderly, nursing mothers, and voters with special needs were given priority and afforded the necessary assistance to vote.

In furtherance of its Electoral Assistance mandate related to the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), and in continuation of its support to the democratic process in The Gambia, the ECOWAS Commission President, H.E. Marcel A. de Souza, deployed the 20-member EOM to observe the country’s legislative elections.

The polls were the first since the December 2016 presidential elections won by President Adama Barrow’s opposition party, after 22 years of the administration of former President Yahya Jammeh, now exiled in Equatorial Guinea.

The ECOWAS Mission, which met Gambia’s major political stakeholders, was supported by a technical team from the ECOWAS Commission, which included the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Mrs. Halima Ahmed, the Permanent Representative in the Gambia, Ms Vabah Gayflor, the Director of Political Affairs Dr. Remi Ajibewa and Head of the Electoral Assistance Division, Mr. Francis Oke.

After the press conference, Prof. Afari-Gyan and his team received Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Gambia, Mrs. Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje.

Both sides noted the fragile political situation in the Gambia and the need for continuous engagement and assistance for the democratisation and development of the new Gambia.

Prof. Afari-Gyan cautioned that the commendable interventions by ECOWAS, the UN and other partners which resulted in the peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia, should be consolidated upon, while Dr. Chambas reaffirmed the UN’s continued support.

The ECOWAS team had earlier met with the Heads of the AU and EU observation missions.

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