STATEMENT BY ALHAGIE MUSTAPHA L. CARAYOL, CHAIRMAN OF THE INDEPENDENT ELECTORALCOMMISSION, ON 23RD NOVEMBER, 2011 (EVE OF ELECTIONS)
My dear brothers and sisters, as we are all aware of the Presidential Election of tomorrow, Thursday 24th November, 2011, the Independent Electoral Commission would want to once again remind you about the importance of the election and to urge all registered Gambian voters to come out in their large numbers and vote.
First of all, I would want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to all Gambians for maturely exercising their franchise in the past elections. The Independent Electoral Commission is of the conviction that all voters will comport themselves in tomorrow’s elections accordingly, and thus create a peaceful and the required environment which will enable the conduct of free, fair and transparent Presidential Election.
It is gratifying to note that Political Parties and their supporters exhibited high sense of Political maturity on the campaign trail until yesterday when two ugly scenes happened along Kombo Sillah Drive and Kairaba Avenue which led to the hospitalization of few APRC supporters. The IEC strongly condemns these acts by unguided youths that have somewhat tainted the orderly and peaceful campaign period. The IEC awaits the full report of the Police, and will no doubt take necessary actions. The IEC expects all party supporters to be tolerant of each other and desist from all kinds of unruly behavior. The peace and stability of our motherland will not be compromised especially during this period. A word to the wise is enough.
My dear brothers and sisters let me take this opportunity to express sincerely the Independent Electoral Commission’s stance of upholding electoral integrity. Integrity is a difficult concept to define though, but an indispensable element of a democratic government system as we very well desire for the Gambian situation. The concept of integrity is innate to the principles of democracy. Thus this concept contributes immensely to the administration of free and fair elections, without which democracy would be compromised.
It is in view of this, that the Independent Electoral Commission is set out to define election integrity as a set of standards based on democratic principles, measures and mechanisms for protecting free and fair elections.
An election is the outcome of a complex process requiring the participation of a multitude of players : Election officials, government officials, political parties & politicians, security agents, Civil Society Organisations, donor agencies, the media, diplomatic missions, the judiciary and the electorate. This is to say to you once again that, the electoral process of the Gambia is a primary responsibility of all and that we all have to endeavour to enhance the processes that lead to the realization of a strong electoral process second to none in the Region and the world at large.
My dear brothers and sisters,
We all know that there are winners and losers in every election. The stakes may be high, and temptation may be great to ensure victory through illegal or morally questionable means in some countries. Election results may be rigged to predetermine who will win or lose, and election may be disrupted, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the process, but I stand here today to pronounce to you that, as far as our concerted efforts are in play, this will never be the case in our dear country. The Independent Electoral Commission believes that an election without integrity subverts the purpose of a democratic election, and cannot be considered fair and equitable. The IEC will ever concentrate on conducting free and fair elections. This I believe we will ever achieve by upholding governing principles such as: respect for principles of electoral democracy; ethical conduct; accuracy and transparency. Please note that these governing principles guarantee free and fair elections as essential conditions for election uprightness. A free election on one hand depends on freedom of speech, assembly, association and movement, and freedom from fear. A fair election on the other hand depends on transparent electoral process, equitable electoral legislation and systems, equal opportunities for all participants, an independent and impartial elections commission, and absence of intimidation, proper procedures, and acceptance of the electoral results.
My dear brothers and sisters
Polls will open at 7.00 am and close at 4.00 pm. The IEC has all its elections mechanisms in their rightful places, to see to it that all registered voters exercise their constitutional right of voting and also to witness the conduct of the elections in a free, fair, transparent and moreover a peaceful atmosphere.
The IEC has done all it takes to inform the general public about the need to come out tomorrow and vote. For the past few months, the IEC together with the other stakeholders embarked on a far-reaching voter education trail and this apparently should appeal to each registered voter to come out and cast his/her vote tomorrow.
As you go out to your various polling stations tomorrow, please do so in the most peaceful manner and avoid doing anything that is prohibited by law on polling day. I would want to appeal to all voters to cooperate with our able polling staff and the security on election duty. After having the chance to cast your vote, please return to your respective homes or places and wait for the results which by law are to be announced by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission through the Public Media.
At this juncture, I wish to register the Commission’s gratitude to all stakeholders and partners in the electoral process of The Gambia, for playing their various roles competently.
GAMTEL plays a pivotal role in the electoral process especially in the transmission of election results. They provide both equipment and personnel to the Commission on gratis. The Commission is indeed grateful. Our sincere gratitude goes to NAWEC and GPA for their invaluable services to the IEC.
My special gratitude also goes to the Government of The Gambia for fulfilling its financial obligations to the IEC. It is pleasing to note that after the construction and inauguration of the beautiful edifice – The Election House, they have singlehandedly funded the Biometric Voter Registration Exercise and the Presidential Election.
My dear Brothers and sisters,
I would also want to take this opportunity to make a final appeal to our polling staff to carry out their polling duties in accordance with our election laws and principles and make sure that no voter is unnecessarily denied of his or her right to vote tomorrow. All polling staff need to operate in a manner that will ever perpetuate the neutrality and transparency of the Independent Electoral Commission.
I would like to appeal to the voters that they should desist from tampering with the pictures and symbols of the candidates pasted on the ballot drums. They should also desist from sealing the drums using chewing gum. Anybody caught in this act will seriously be dealt with.
Once again, remember that polls open tomorrow at 7.00 a.m and close at 4.00 pm.
I thank you all for your cooperation and I wish you all a successful Presidential Election.