|Joof said independent candidates have a chance to win votes from voters who planned on voting for the coalition as they did in the presidential election (Photo taken from Facebook/modou.joof1)|
“It is important that no political party holds absolute majority in the National Assembly, so that there is more representation of national interest rather than party interest,” says Modou S. Joof, a journalist and a political science student at the University of The Gambia.
He said this year’s parliamentary election will be an interesting contest with the opposition and independent candidates fully participating.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has endorsed a record 239 candidates from nine political parties and a host of independent candidates.
With 53 seats to be filled, the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) is vying in 52 seats – the single biggest entry from a political party. The United Democratic Party (UDP) has candidates contesting in 44 constituencies.
There are 42 independent candidates, while the opposition Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC) has 29. It is followed by the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) 24, and the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) 22.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), Gambia People Democratic Party (GPDP), and the National Convention Party (NCP) filed in 14, 5, 4 and 3 candidates respectively.
Vote along party lines
“Since there is no united front for the national assembly election, there is an indication that the majority of the people will be voting along political party lines, I mean voting for individual parties,” Joof says.
“This gives independent candidates a chance to win votes from voters who planned on voting for coalition candidates as they did in the presidential election. So it is good and it offers people choice to select from a wider pool of candidates.”
He said no single party is guaranteed absolute majority in parliament until the results suggest otherwise. “A lot of people are unhappy with the new government's handling of affairs and may decide to vote against certain political parties they see as making up the new government,” he says.
Taking politics seriously
Baboucarr Ceesay, a senior Gambian journalist, said Gambians are now taking politics seriously. “It is very fascinating and encouraging seeing many young people participating in politics contrary to the past, when politics was seen as a thing for the elderly people,” he says.
“This is evident in the massive participation of young aspirants for national assembly seats. This is a reassuring sign of the expansion of the country’s political pluralism and participatory approach.”
According to him, the political battle between political leaders is not a strange thing in a multiparty democracy as it helps in the free flow of dissenting opinions and divergent views for the promotion of an atmosphere of political tolerance.
“All parties are rising for seats in the national assembly to get better representation. If the national assembly is well balanced the scrutinization of bills to be tabled can be fastidiously done in the best interest of the nation,” Ceesay says.
Advocate for good policies
Fatoumata Jawara is the UDP candidate for Tallinding constituency. She says her mission will be “to advocate for good policies” for the women across the country.
“Let’s join together to compliment the efforts of the new government by voting in members who will support President Adama Barrow in his mandate in office,” she says after her nomination.
Halifa Sallah, the PDOIS candidate for Serekunda constituency, says the change [of government] which was necessary, has been made. He said the task now, is to build a National Assembly that would ensure that change goes in the direction that the people aspire.
Sallah last served his constituency in the Assembly 10 years ago.
“My duty now is to go back into that National Assembly and build it up so that we can serve as the oversight institution,” he says.
He says the new national assembly should ensure that laws that would guaranty liberty and polices that will ensure prosperity are put in place.
He explained that the “educated citizenry” should always stand and appreciate individuals while helping them to understand what is wrong and how to correct it.
“We want transparency and an accountable government,” he says.
- A version of this story first appeared on The Voice newspaper in Serekunda