The chairman of Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission is sharply denying reports conditions on the ground are not conducive to ensure today’s (Thursday) presidential election is transparent, free and fair.
Mustapha Carayol says “it is impossible to rig elections in Gambia” despite opposition and international observer group claims that the vote will not be credible.
Polling stations in the 48 constituencies are scheduled to open at 7:00 am and close at 4:00pm local time. Carol predicts Gambians will learn the outcome of the presidential vote by 6:00 am, Friday.
In a letter to the Gambia government, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, said the group will not be sending an observer mission to monitor today’s election.
Citing “intimidation, an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power, the lack of neutrality of state and para-statal institutions, and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation,” the sub-regional bloc said conditions on the ground will not ensure a level playing field.
But, electoral commission chairman Carayol rejects ECOWAS’ claims.
“That is [expletive]. I don’t agree with them because the ground is level. Each party campaigned freely, and there are so many televisions, and there is no intimidation,” said Carayol. “If ECOWAS can observe elections in Sierra Leone, observe elections in Nigeria, in Benin, Togo and all what not, why not the Gambia? What has happened in the Gambia?”
He questioned ECOWAS’s “secret agenda against Gambia,“ insisting that “Gambia is the most peaceful country in Africa. There is no problem in the country [and] the ground is level as far as I know.”
Carayol maintains the electoral body has implemented measures to ensure a free and fair vote.
“Our election is one of the fairest in the world. We use marbles; we don’t use ballot papers, [and] we have very few invalid votes. All Gambians understand the system,” said Carayol. “Each party will have its own agents [throughout the entire process]; they will verify the results, and sign the results before I announce [them]. In Gambia, you cannot rig an election. Our elections are free and fair.”
He called on Gambians to peacefully cast their ballots in today’s presidential election.
ECOWAS expressed readiness to work with authorities in Gambia and stakeholders there to create a level-playing field in future polls.