In cognizance of the significance of free and fair elections for an enhanced democracy, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) early this week convened a meeting of legislators, politicians, district chiefs, journalists, members of civil society organizations and heavy-weight security functionaries to discuss issues of extreme significance to strengthening the electoral process in The Gambia.
This process of public consultation is to enable the IEC to better prepare itself to meet the challenges of conducting the 2008 local elections and other electoral programmes in the future.
The two-day forum, the theme of which was “Strengthening the Electoral Process in The Gambia,” was held at the exquisite five-star Kairaba Beach Hotel.
In his welcoming address Alhaji Mustapha L. Carayol, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, reminded participants of the series of elections that the IEC conducted since its inception in 1997. He observed that there was never a forum or medium wherein all the major stakeholders and partners came together to deliberate on the programmes of the commission, with particular attention to the electoral process of The Gambia. To him, these are indications of political shine and democratic health.
“As a result, today’s forum deserves all positive attributes of being considered unique and that it will be an avenue for all the stakeholders and partners in our electoral process to speak with one accord,” said the IEC chief.
For Mr. Carayol, the electoral process does not only have to be concentrated on the functions of the IEC, but it encompasses a wide-range of participation from the public sector. “ The various stakeholders in our electoral process include the government, the electorate, the civil society, security services, the media, the judiciary, observers and the development partners,” he said.
“They have different roles to play so as to witness the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in our country. The participation from the above angles of our society in our electoral process is a lucid indicator that elections are the business of all citizens and thus necessitating this august gathering.”
Meanwhile, during the two-day conference 22-23 October, issues and concerns of vital importance took centre-stage.
Described as a landmark in the electoral landscape of The Gambia, the meeting enabled participants to bring under the microscope many areas of critical importance to make for an enhanced electoral process.