In any election, more-so on the African continent, one of the lesser known TRICKS and loopholes used by dictators and rogue leaders alike in a desperate effort to rig elections has been that of too-many-voters in relation to the population. Fellow Gambians – watch out for the turnout figures announced by the IEC as soon as the polls closed – these can be a major giveaway. Nowhere will a country register 90% to a near 100% turnout. That is just a facade. And a plain lie. The disparity in reported turnout figures in area-codes (sic) has to be carefully monitored, with the potential for fraudulence. For example, certain polling stations in APRC strongholds or the president’s ethnic (Jola) districts shall report a near 100% turnout, whilst most other areas, opposition strongholds – a far inferior rate. President Jammeh has the IEC in his pocket, and certainly will use the inept electoral commission once again to this effect in a desperate attempt to cling onto power.
Another grey-area to keep an eye on is the numbers of invalid votes ascribed to the opposition coalition. Even in countries with low literacy rates such as the Ivory Coast, or Senegal, for instance, this isn’t normally above two to three percentage points. And with the growing excitement and high-expectations amongst the voting public for the opposition-alliance – Keep an eye on the number of rejected votes Momar Njie and his electoral commission throw at Honorable Adama Barrow, leading the coalition.
In a traditional democracy in which electoral norms and rules of fair-play are upheld firmest, the conventional wisdom is that electoral officials must go through a certain procedure as soon as polls are closed and before opening the boxes. This process is known as the reconciliation of ballots. After they have counted how many ballot papers they received in the morning, they then need to count how many are left, and how many, if any, were torn or otherwise spoiled and had to be put aside. This, then, informs them how many papers should be in the box. It should also match the number of names checked off on the register. The total votes must not exceed the ballot papers issued – Any disparity in this signals corruption and vote rigging.
The Chairman to the Independent Electoral Commission, Mr Momar Njie – The first task when a box is opened is to count the number of papers inside, this is done prior to counting the votes cast for the various candidates. And if there are more papers in the boxes than were issued by the polling staff, it is highly likely that someone has been ‘stuffing’ – meaning secretly filling the boxes with Jammeh’s papers. That will be a clear breach of the electoral codes and best practices punishable by imprisonment. Again, such a scandal is an affront to the constitution, and all other International norms governing fair elections. Any such discrepancy is enough reason to cancel the result and arrange a re-run, where the offending candidate and party, Yaya Jammeh and his APRC, will be barred and to face trial.
Results don’t match – It is now standard practice to allow party agents, observers and sometimes even voters to watch the counting process and take photographs of the results sheet with their smart phones. They then have proof of the genuine results from their area – just in case the ones announced later by the electoral commission don’t match. It has clearly taken crooked politicians some time to catch up with the fact that people will now know if they change the results. I encourage the opposition coalition to prepare for this, and to exploit such advances in social media in helping to minimize this nightmarish scenario. Changing a government in Africa is never easy, more so a manifestly corrupt and an entrenched dictatorship Gambians are subjected to:
Interestingly, however, another trick to be-aware and suspicious of is the – Delay in announcing results. Election commissions, particularly in Africa, can appear to take an inordinately long time to publish official results. In states enduring brutal regimes, such as The Gambia, the electoral commission is often coerced, and bribed, into colluding with the incumbent every step of the counting process. As questions and uncertainty remain over the IEC, One can predict with certainty that President Jammeh will be fed the tailored results before anyone else. The UN special envoy and that of the African Union respectively have raised concern as tensions increase.
Finally, across Africa, the fact that aspiring candidates equate election victory as a lottery ticket to wealth and riches has hindered progress. Corruption remain a cancer in our society, with politicians engaging in backhand deals continuously re-positioning themselves closer and closer to the nation’s bank accounts. Campaign promises and the needs of ordinary voters are often discarded in the bin as soon as they assume office – Well the Gambian people have a chance to correct that waving bye to maladministration come December, 1st, 2016. Given an era of enlightenment and instant connection worldwide, the IEC must be reminded that delays will not be accepted, fuelling rumours of ‘foul-play’. This will increase tensions within the country and concern globally as the world awaits News. My hope is that the Electoral commission and President jammeh will take heed – Because the Gambian people are ready to act – anticipating a solid victory in this defining election.
Written By Gibril Saine, London