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IEC chairman advocates for Diaspora rep in Parliament

Alieu Momarr Njai, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission
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The chief of the country’s electoral body spoke at the opening ceremony of a five-day workshop organized by West Minster Foundation to promote inclusiveness in Gambia’s governance for marginalized groups like women, youths and disables.

Alieu Momarr Njai, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission

Alieu Momarr Njai, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, has revealed plans by the electoral body to advocate not just the voting of Gambians in the diaspora but their representation in the parliament.

Gambian constitution has recognized the rights of citizens in foreign countries to vote but such an exercise has never happened.

Njai said former president Yahya Jammeh has never taken interest in the voting of diaspora because of his unpopularity among them.

“Even though it is in the constitution that Diasporas should vote, but because 90% of them will not have voted for the previous Government, we were never allowed to implement that. But now what we are planning to do is to make sure… they should not only vote but to be voted for in parliament,” said Njai.

Even though the voting of the diaspora is constitutional, their representation in the lawmaking body is not. However, Njai said reforms to include such changes in the electoral laws are high on their agenda.

Neighboring Senegal, according to Njai, has up to 15 members of parliament for diaspora, adding that Gambia could have 2 or 3.

Since the regime change in December 2016, the new government whose campaign was largely funded by diaspora said it recognized it as the country’s eighth constituency. However, there were two subsequent elections but voting is yet to be extended to diaspora.

“… The electoral reforms will be in the form of countrywide public consultation. Issues like constituency demarcation, diaspora voting, and mode of voting will be discussed,” said Njai.

The IEC is also planning to shift the country’s voting system to ballot papers from using drums and tokens.

The West Minster Foundation has launched a programme in Gambia in November 2018 to sensitise political parties on importance of including women, youths and disables in decision making positions.

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