Darboe happy with the change
A Gambian opposition leader has said he welcomes the appointment of a new electoral chief by President Yahya Jammeh and would not question the integrity of the newly appointed commission chair Alieu Momar Njie. United Democratic Party leader Ousainou Darboe said he is happy that former electoral chairman, Mustapha Carayol has been replaced.
“I do not want to doubt his integrity until he does something that puts that integrity into question. I think he is a gentleman and we would expect that he do the right thing. I do not want to question his integrity at all,” Darboe told WADR’s Adolphus Mawolo. Darboe still believe there can be a free and fair election in the December presidential polls urging the electoral commission to do the right thing and stand up to President Yahya Jammeh..
The opposition parties in the Gambia questioned Mr Carayol’s independence but the newly appointed chair is not only a member of the ruling APRC party but has contested for public office under their ticket, becoming a deputy mayor of the country’s commercial Kanifing Municipality.
In 2011, ECOWAS ruled the Gambia’s presidential election was not free and fair resulting to a boycott of national assembly polls by at least six opposition parties including Mr Darboe’s UDP party. Last summer, the country’s “rubber stamp” National Assembly passed an electoral amendment bill, which was discretely signed by President Jammeh into law.
Critics of the regime say the changes to the electoral laws were discriminatory and a conspiracy against national interest. It required presidential nominees to pay a nonrefundable fee of at least USD $27,000 to contest for the nation’s highest office.
Jammeh legitimizing rule with opposition participation
President Yahya Jammeh wants to legitimize his 21 year rule which analysts say he would comfortably extend to 26 years after the December elections. While the new electoral regulations make the political landscape even sloppier and election farther from free and fair, the Gambia’s divided opposition seems to be ready to contest.
Analysts say without a coalition, Jammeh is going to “definitely win and participation by the opposition will legitimize his rule.”
President Jammeh changed the electoral chief after the opposition filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Mr Carayol being the electoral chief at the country’s Supreme Court two weeks ago but his office said Carayol has gone into retirement.
“President Jammeh wants to make them feel comfortable as if he is giving into their demands. He is giving the opposition false hope for negotiations with the IEC for electoral reform.” says Sam Phatey, an analyst. “If they believe there will be any credible elections under the current conditions even with a new electoral chairman, then Jammeh must have taken Jammeh's April Fool’s joke seriously. If they contest, they will continue to be his underlings.”
Phatey said while Darboe is sure not to question Chairman Njie’s independence today, he surely will after December polls but advises strongly against such a detour by the veteran politician for it will also question his intelligence to make critical decisions and sound judgement.