… – says IEC chairman as international and domestic observers are briefed – By Sainey M.K. Marenah – Shout-Africa.com Chief Correspondent In Banjul – The Gambia’s election system is very transparent, and one of the best in the world, Mustapha Carayol, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), yesterday told international and domestic observers.
Addressing the observers at a briefing session held at the Paradise Suites Hotel, Chairman Carayol explained that the IEC was established under chapter 5 section 42 of the constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, and its mandate under the constitution and electoral laws include the registration of political parties.
He added that the Commission is also mandated to conduct and supervise the registration of voters for all public elections and referenda, conduct election of a speaker and a deputy speaker (of the National Assembly), ensuring dates , times and places of public elections and referenda, as well as the announcement of results of all elections and referenda.
He noted that since the inception of the IEC in 1997, they have conducted two presidential elections, two national assembly elections and one local government election and several by-elections for the national assembly and local government.
According to the IEC boss, presently there are ten registered political parties with the commission including the ruling APRC, NADD, UDP, NCP, NRP, NDAM, PDOIS, PPP, GPDP and GMC, adding that only three candidates are contesting in this presidential election.
“The country is divided into seven administrative areas with an IEC regional office in each administrative headquarters,” Carayol stated.
He also revealed that there are 1302 polling stations in the country. Out of this, he said, Banjul administrative area has 34 polling stations, Kanifing administrative with 269, Brikama with 399 polling stations, Kerewan with 165 polling stations, Mansakonko with 83 polling stations Janjabureh with 181 polling stations, and Basse administrative area with 171 polling stations respectively.
The IEC chairman further informed the gathering that there are 796,929 (seven hundred and ninety six thousand nine hundred and twenty nine) registered voters.
“115 assistant returning officers have been employed to work in the forty-eight constituencies countrywide with counting centers at each constituency,” he said.
According to the IEC chairman, there are seven collation centers located at the IEC regional offices, except in Mansakonko, where the collation center will be at the Rural Development Institute.
Chairman Carayol went on to say that polls will open at 7 am and close at 4 pm, but if voters are in the queue at 4 pm, they should be allowed to vote.
Responding to questions by various observer missions about the transparency of the process, and of ballot boxes not being tampered with, Carayol said in The Gambia, before voting starts, the ballot boxes are opened for all party agents to inspect and be satisfied.
He added that at the end of voting, the electoral agents are present, when the boxes are sealed and transported, and handed over to the counting centers. Before counting begins all present will verify that the ballot boxes were not tampered with.
Sambujang Jagne, Director of Operations, also briefed the observers regarding the polling process, among others.
He said that the IEC started preparations for the conduct of the 2011 presidential election with a digitized voters’ registration, in May-June 2011.
He told observers that, so far, there have been no reports of incidence of violence throughout the campaign period.
Deputizing for the Inspector General of Police, IGP was the Commissioner in Charge of Operations, Ousman Gibba, who said that series of training sessions were conducted for the police and other security services, over the past six months, as part of preparations for the elections.
As part of the briefing, the ballot boxes of the three candidates were shown to the gathering, with a practical demonstration of how the voting process is carried out.