By Omar Faye
Despite wide voter turnout, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) hints on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to put matters of legal institutional reforms on their table.The EU EOM team ended their observation mission to the Gambia with emphasis on legal and structural reforms.
“Structural deficiencies and critical procedural and legal gaps require fundamental reforms,” Norbert Nueser, Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission said in a statement on Sunday. Although the EU team of Election observers noted with positive transparency of the voting and counting process of the election process; but said it has reservations on the IEC approach. “This was in contrast, however to the opaque approach of the IEC at central level during per-election period,” the Chief Observer said. The IEC accepted only 6 candidate in a bid for the race to presidency, out of the 21 candidates. The body was criticised for not allowing for meaningful scrutiny. “The public standing of the IEC which has been held in high esteem by stakeholders since the 2016 election, unfortunately has been ‘diminished’. During the candidate nomination process, the IEC accepted only 6 of 21 candidacies and did not allow for meaningful scrutiny. The court ruled that IEC had acted unlawfully on the exclusion of aspirants,” Mr Norbert noted. On the election day, the EU observers reported from over 128 polling station in the rural and urban areas in all 7 administrative areas. Norbert says the election was found to be peaceful. “While polling officials carried out the process professionally, some procedural gap were noted during the voting and counting, which if not addressed could provide the possibility for misuse in future,” the mission head added. The commission is without a legal department, despite previous recommendations from International Observers. Meanwhile, in a recent interview with Malagen Online platform Khan the IEC Spokesman conceded that they need it.
He was quoted in Malagen saying, “Absolutely. As you may see, the commission is a very small commission with very few units and I think going forward it will be important to have a legal department.” The EU was invited by the IEC to deploy an observation mission . The EU Election Observer Mission will return to the Gambia to publish and present report including recommendations meant to contribute to improving in upcoming elections. Meanwhile, in a similar but separate development, the Head of the ECOWAS Election Observer Mission Earnest Bai Koroma urged the president elect Adama Barrow to increase efforts to meet the challenges of social stability, economic recovery, democratic governance and consolidate peace and security in an inclusive manner as the mission also briefed the media of their findings of the election