By Abdoulie John

Gambian opposition leader has expressed his resolve to take part in 2016 elections, and ruled out a possible election boycott by his party.

“As far as we are concerned, the issue of boycotting is not on our table,” Hamat Bah of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) assured.

Hamat Bah’s statement comes in the midst of a tussle over opposition’s demands for electoral reforms, and pro-democracy groups and some political parties are intensifying boycott call as authorities continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated calls for reform from politicians and human rights activists. A recent government reform has drastically increased deposits for candidates and fees for the registration of political parties.

“We strongly believe that by boycotting elections, we are strengthening the incumbent. The only way to get rid of this regime is to challenge President Jammeh in elections,” he said while government is yet to come up with any reform agenda.

Despite the fact that NRP on August 6 won a parliamentary seat in Lower Saloum by-election, Hamat Bah agreed that demands spearheaded by the country’s opposition are still relevant. “This will help to strengthen our position and the issue of governance in the country.”

However, Mai Ahmad Fatty of the opposition Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) is overwhelmingly in favour of an election boycott. “Without comprehensive electoral reforms, it will constitute a conspiracy to entrench tyranny by going for elections. We are for elections, but not on the back of the voters. If we have to unite, it must be on achieving reforms before elections,” he said in a statement widely circulated via social media.

Fatty said Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh cannot circumvent a united opposition demand for reforms. “Any opposition campaign should be on preparing the nation for a showdown on reforms. That is why our policy remains
empowering the opposition’s ability to enforce its demands, not canvassing for votes at this stage.”

The spokesperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Joseph Colley hang up the phone when asked why the country’s electoral body is still reluctant to comply with opposition’s demands.

Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by President Yahya Jammeh who seized in a 1994 military coup. In 2011, just after casting his vote, Jammeh told reporters that he is ready to rule for “one billion years”.




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