By Shout-Africa Gambia Correspondent – Incumbent President Yahya Jammeh has his chances of re-election for a fourth term in office boosted further after efforts by seven Gambian opposition parties to agree a single candidate to stand against him ended without any outcome.
Leaders from the fragmented opposition UDP, PDOIS, NRP, NADD, GMC, PPP and GPDP held weeks of talks, between September and October this year, on fielding a single candidate against Jammeh, but the talks foundered with no agreement on who should put up the candidate.
A press release issued and signed by leaders of the seven parties, among others, highlighted the disagreement among representatives of opposition parties at the said meetings, with just five weeks to go before the Presidential Election slated for Thursday 24th November 2011.
Below we reproduce the full text of the press release verbatim:
We, the undersigned, having met from the 3rd of September to 14th October at the YMCA and People’s Centre respectively have mutually agreed to issue this press release as a true reflection and summation of the deliberations and outcome of a meeting convened in response to an invitation by the UDP for Opposition Parties to meet and discuss the issue of Unity and the modalities of fostering it.
All the non-ruling party allied opposition parties in The Gambia, namely in alphabetical order, GMC, GPDP, NADD, NRP, PDOIS, PPP and UDP participated in the deliberations.
Six long sessions were held characterized by frank, sincere and insightful debates that enabled each delegate to form and even reformulate opinions in the course of the deliberations.
At no time of the discussion was the outcome predictable to anyone. Consultations continued until the 11th hour. All views were entertained and all intolerance muted.
A climate of respect for freedom of expression and tolerance of divergent views was maintained. Decorum ruled the relationship of the representatives.
The outcome of the meeting of 3rd September to 14th October 2011 is that all opposition parties present supported the creation of a United Front.
In terms of the modalities of creating the United Front, a motion was introduced for all parties to support the holding of a convention to determine the selection of a Presidential candidate.
It was moved that proportional representation should be introduced relying on the results of the 1996, 2011 or 2006 elections; that the person who emerges second in the election serves as an interim shadow cabinet prior to the elections and mutually agreed reform agenda should be accepted as an election manifesto.
Participants were requested to endorse the proposal to make the UDP initiative a historical success.
The motion was seconded and supported by 5 parties namely, GMC, GPDP, NADD, NRP and PDOIS. Two parties not in support of the motion were UDP and PPP.
In his closing remarks, Mr Ousainou Darboe, the leader of the UDP, the convener of the talks, expressed his deep appreciation for the response given to the invitation of his party to the talks, and the time, energy and wisdom displayed by all participants to enable us to conclude the talks in a climate of tolerance, respect, and sincerity.
He said that even though the proposal his party made for a UDP-led alliance is not accepted, he is of the view that it could achieve the objectives stated in the motion for a Convention.
He said that his party accepts the outcome in good faith and the historians would record it as an effort by his party to bring the opposition together, even if it did not turn out as they wanted.
The other delegates indicated that history has been made in participating in a meeting where every delegate has the freedom to express his or her views.
They acknowledged that everyone was humble, as true servants of the people should behave.
All views were listened to, and each was free to make and revoke decisions. The deliberations were truly participatory and democratic.
They commended the UDP for taking the initiative, and wished that all emerged from the talks with one voice and one position. They expressed the need to maintain relations between those who support a convention and those who did not, so that through further consultation, unity may eventually be attained.
The chairperson of the talks, Mr Amadou Taal, closed the talks by urging for further consultation to be made to close ranks before nomination.