By Gambian Correspondent – The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) yesterday announced that it would conduct the Presidential Election on 24th November 2011.
The Chairman of the IEC, Alhaji Mustapha Carayol, made the announcement yesterday at a press conference held at IEC head office in Kanifing.
The press conference was meant to brief journalists, politicians, civil society organisations and other stakeholders about the forthcoming election cycle of 2011-2013. According to Carayol, the Presidential Election will be followed by the National Assembly Election in the first quarter of 2012, and the Local Government Election a year later, in the first quarter of 2013.
“The 2011 General Registration of Voters will be conducted over a period of 42 days. It will last from 2nd May 2011 to 12 June 2011, all Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays inclusive.
“This means that all the voters cards issued during the general registration of voters in 2001 and the subsequent supplementary registration of voters of 2004 and 2006 will be invalid, as of 1st May 2011”, announced the IEC boss.
IEC Chairman Carayol further added: “The Commission has in exercise of its mandate under section 16 of the Election Decree, as amended, and section 43, subsection 1(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, published in the national Gazette of 22nd March 2011 the conduct of a General Registration of Voters.”
He further told journalists and politicians at the gathering that the Commission has also published in the national Gazette the dates for the conduct of the registration of voters, and the official period of the exercise as determined by the commission in accordance with the law (section 14 of the Election Decree).
Carayol also used the occasion to announce that a new digital voter registration system will be introduced, to be supported by CODE Inc, an internationally-recognized Canadian company, with the required capacity to implement The Gambia’s voter registration exercise.
“It may interest you to note that after the last cycle of the elections (2006-2008), three conclaves were convened by IEC across the country. One of the most prominent resolutions that the stakeholders in the electoral process made was the need to change the mode of registration,” he said.
He said that IEC in a bid to be in consonance with the wishes of the people made frantic searches for the availability of the Polaroid cameras and Fuji films.
“It was found out that these materials are obsolete in the world market. There and then, the idea of conducting a computerized mode – Biometric System of registration was conceived,” said the IEC chair.
He also told the gathering that six foreign companies and two local companies submitted bids to the IEC and these companies were asked to do a presentation to the stakeholders, after which two were shortlisted.
“These two companies were invited by the IEC to conduct a mock biometric registration of voters in schools within the Greater Banjul Area, which were conducted on 14th and 15th January 2010.”
Carayol added that the mock exercise was carried out without incident, adding: “the speed with the registration was satisfactory. The machines were also adaptable to the weather conditions of the country. The issue that subsequently surface after the mock registration of voters is that of sustainability.”
After a thorough reflection, the IEC chief added, the commission has now come to the conclusion that it will conduct a computerized registration of voters without the use of biometric solutions.
“The digital system is adopted mainly due to the fact that the previously used Polaroid cameras and films are no longer available in the market. It is more economical to adopt the digital system as it is more cost effective and sustainable. This system has in place adequate security features integrated in both the voter card and the data capture processes to ensure an accurate list of voters.”
According to the IEC boss, during this period a total of 200 registration teams will be deployed across the country.
He stated that the objective of the Commission is to bring registration teams to the doorsteps of all voters.
“Some changes will be effected in the number of registration centers, while new centres will be opened to accommodate growing settlements and to provide better access to electoral services for voters,” he further said.
The list of registration centers and team movements will be announced over the media, Carayol continued, and he implored all eligible Gambians to come forward and register during this period.
He also informed political parties that the IEC will invite at least one agent from each party to be with each registration team, throughout the registration period, at each party’s expense.
He urged political parties to send the names of registration agents to the IEC before the commencement of the registration exercise for proper identification.
“The registration exercise will be followed by other important activities, including the display period and revising courts. Gambians are again urged to participate in all these activities, as they are part and parcel of the registration.”
“It is important to note that all these activities will be convened under a very tight timeframe and so the commission implores all Gambians to come out and register within the designated period”, he added.
The commission chair went on to urge all and sundry to desist from attesting for the under-aged and aliens, adding that this is a crime under the laws of the Gambia, further pointing out that the Gambian voters ID is exclusively for eligible Gambians.
He also announced that the Gambia government has exclusively financed the entire registration of voters exercise, which will cost D65, 297,506.1, while thanking the government for financing it.
The IEC chief also called on all Gambians to help nurture The Gambia’s democratic culture for the benefit of peace, development and national cohesion.
He stated that the participation and contribution of all is encouraged, as elections are the business for all.
The commission also continues to seek the support and cooperation of all prospective registrants, local authorities, development partners and the public at large for the conduct of very successful voters’ registration, and free and fair elections, Carayol declared.
Other speakers at the briefing were Sanbujang Njie, the IEC’s Director of Operations and Robert Anthony Secka, the Chief Electoral Officer, who all asked for a massive turnout of the populace for the voters registration, as the timeframe is short.
Chief Electoral Officer Secka described the press briefing as a springboard for “all our electoral activities from this year to subsequent electoral activities heading to local elections”.
Director of Operations Njie announced that the maximum period for registration is three to four minutes, adding that cards will be issued where the individuals registered, on the spot.