With the presidential election just a few days away and the IEC increasingly struggling to assert its independence, the current IEC Chairman while giving out loud assurances for a free and fair election, has reported a misleading figure for the total registered number of additional voters after the Supplementary Registration exercise ended. To report that 89, 649 people were registered during the exercise is factually inaccurate and at variance with the figure given by his predecessor when the exercise was completed on 12 March 2016.
Mr. Mustafa Carayol, The former IEC Chairman, gave a press briefing at the end of the registration exercise in March this year and reported that the total number of registrants during the supplementary exercise was 44, 547 people, made up of the following: Banjul 649, Kanifing Area 5001, Brikama Area 13,039, Kerewan Area 6245, Mansakonko Area 2732, Janjabureh Area 9639 and Basse Area 7242. According to Mr. Carayol, this was the breakdown of people issued with new voters’ cards in each of the 7 Administrative areas throughout the country and the IEC will not embark on any registration for new voters after the deadline.
On Tuesday, September 26, 2016 in a press release, Mr. Alieu Momar Njai reported 89, 649 people as the new voters added on the voter’s register although he failed to the breakdown of the numbers par administrative area, making the official number of voters increased to 886, 578 instead of 814, 476 based on the correct number of new voters added during the time of Mr. Carayol. There is no doubt that Mr. Njai has exaggerated the number for the additional voters registered during the supplementary registration exercise in favor of the incumbent which could have serious consequences for the opposition parties as the additional undocumented 45, 102 voters (the difference between 89, 649 and 44, 547) will definitely vote for Yaya Jammeh.
Also of concern to the unsuspecting people is the increase on the number of polling stations from 1300 to 1422 and following the re-demarcation of some constituencies, which has now increased the number of constituencies from 48 to 53 without the necessary registration exercise for these 5 newly demarcated areas. Gambians are still waiting for the IEC to tell us where these constituencies are located. Is there a co-relation between the increase in the number of constituencies and the misleading number for the new voters? We need to look into the details; it is too significant to ignore.
It seems the IEC is repeating the same voter fraud that was widely condemned by the opposition parties during the 2011 supplementary registration exercise when significant number of ineligible voters in Kombo East area were registered without ID cards, birth certificates or letters from the Alkalos. One of the IEC supervisors in that area, Moussa L. Sawaneh, tried to take his stance but was arrested and detained for a weeks before he finally absconded to a foreign country.
When the misleading numbers form the IEC are compared with the provisional population figures of the Gambia Bureau of Statistics, we will see the population increased by 38.3% from 1.360 million in 2003 to 1.882 million in 2013 has no co-relation with that of the percentage increases registered by the IEC. According to the GBOS provisional Census figures, Kuntaur is counted as a separate division and has its population increased by 26% from 78, 491 to 99, 108. Thus there are 8 Administrative divisions in the Census report which is either ignored by the IEC or conveniently omitted.
Ensuring free and fair election is a tough job when the election outcome has already been decided by Yaya Jammeh and the dubious son of the IEC Chairman. Putting constituency stickers on the voting cards of the voters in the newly demarcated areas will heighten suspicions especially if it is designed to cater for the large number of voters in army uniforms. If the IEC still wants to avoid the widespread criticisms characteristic of its past conduct, it must ensure that widespread voter intimidation is stop and to prevail upon the public TV station GRTS to stop the one-sided misinformation campaign designed to give an edge to Jammeh over his political rivals.
If the IEC can stand up to some of the challenges of the past ugly presidential campaigns and allow access to statewide registration database of all registered voters to be closely scrutinized, I think IEC will allay any fear of vote rigging in this coming election. Otherwise, many people still believe that the rigging has been done well before the voting day, discrediting the entire idea of free and fair election.
Written By Insider Analyst