Hon. Mama Kandeh, Secretary General & Party Leader, GDC
By Buba Gagigo
Hon. Mama Kandeh, Secretary General and party leader of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), has joined Gambians who condemned vote-buying ahead of the local government election.
In a press release dated 11th April 2023, the Secretary General and party leader of the Gambia Democratic Congress said.
“We have examined the consequence of vote-buying, and I write to extend my fervent disappointment over this issue. Vote-buying has been very popular in our election and a series of complaints have been forwarded to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and no meaningful actions have been taken. This practice has weakened our democracy since candidates winning is based on one financially muscle to dash out cash,” he said.
He said vote-buying is morally and legally wrong, and it has a great negative impact on electoral behaviour.
“By looking at voter turnout and candidates’ selection in some areas where campaign took place, we can infer the likely effect of voter turnout and electoral outcomes. It is sad to know that vote-buying is a criminal act, but no ruthless action has ever been taken by the IEC to bring those committing the act to book. There are so many instances where material evidence has been presented to the IEC only to be comforted with “we will investigate “.
“We have seen how vote-buying deters good aspiring political leaders from running for office or denies them an entry to political office because money is chosen by the electorate over ideas or experience. The vote-buying is seriously undermining our democracy and the franchise rights of all citizens, as it enables poor governments and undercuts citizen’s ability to hold their elected officials accountable,” the GDC leader said.
Hon Kandeh said vote-buying is a contentious issue in the Country’s contemporary discourse on the sustainability of democratic development in The Gambia.
“Our laws towards vote-buying are dead and buried because the implementers do not take the needful actions. It is evidenced that most of these embarrassing acts are from the ruling party and, as a result, they are not law-abiding. It has serious implications, because bias in the implementation of law can lead people in their own directions that we do not expect. Recently, an NPP stalwart supporter has been caught buying votes in Banjul, and it has reached the police. This we believe is more than the needed evidence to act according to the law. What has been the outcome? Nothing. The ruling party will be protected at all costs at the detriment of our own laws. Laws enforce protect our general safety, and ensure our rights as citizens against the abuses,” he continued.
The GDC leader said the importance of law is to provide justice, but the continuous violation of a law without penalties can be considered as advises and not law anymore.
He said vote-buying is an act of corruption and the end result is electing corrupt politicians who are not merely a trait of development, characterized by weak political ideas and incompetence.
“Our electoral system continues to lose its integrity as their laws no longer serve their purpose,” he said.
The GDC leader also said another threat to Gambia’s politics is political gifts, that he said paint a dire picture.
“Political gifts in food items: rice, sugar, oil etc is alarming which is not done out of good faith. The ruling party Executive members have been seen committing this act to influence voters’ decision, which is now very entrenched in our politics. This practice is illegal and the IEC is muted over it, as the credibility of the election is put to a test,” he said.
Furthermore, the GDC leader also called for a stop to political intimidation from the Alkalos, chiefs and regional governors.
“The opposition supporters are intimidated to vote against their own candidates. These authorities turn out to be political campaign managers for the ruling party as an expression of their loyalty to the president. We will continue our call for the IEC to be impartial in dealing with all political parties and stop to cherry-pick on the implementation of their laws. Finally, IEC performance in their duty is to organize a credible election and to maintain and uphold the electoral laws and failing in this regard is equal to participating in violating their electoral laws,” he concluded.