2021 will be a pivotal year for The Gambia as it signifies the first presidential election since the political transition in 2017. Ahead of the elections, political parties as the guardians of democracy and under the auspices of Inter-Party Committee (IPC) will be expected to forge a united front to build consensus on the governance reform agenda including electoral reforms, draft new constitution, Elections Bill 2020, Access to Information Bill, among others. It is against this background that UNDP, through the Peace Building Fund (PBF) project on leadership and accountability supported the Inter-Party Committee (IPC) to hold a forum dedicated to dialogue on elections bill 2020 and the induction of political parties to the Inter-Party Committee (IPC) instruments - the Memorandum of Association between political parties and the Code of Conduct.
All 16 political parties registered by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) reviewed the IPC instruments and committed to the general principles of the MOU. The later includes the right of political parties to campaign freely in the country, refrain from frustrating legitimate activities of other political parties, avoid using inflammatory or defamatory language, and restrain from intimidation in any form. Overall, this initiative will contribute to peaceful conduct of elections during the 2021-2023 electoral cycle.
The dialogue on the Elections Bill 2020 focused on developing consensus on contentious issues including gender. Preliminary recommendations include the use of marble voting system for 2021 presidential elections, the creation of an independent Boundaries Review Commission, a legal unit for the IEC, reduction of fees paid by presidential candidates from 1 million to GMD 50,000, voting rights for the prisoners, among others. The joint recommendations by political parties will be tabled for consideration at the National Assembly in December 2020 during the discussions and ratification of the Elections Bill 2020.
Speaking at the forum, UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Aissata De, acknowledged the unique role of the Inter-Party Committee (IPC) in democratic consolidation, reducing inter-party tensions and overall peaceful conduct of elections. She encouraged political parties to rethink and open their internal leadership structures to women, including increasing nomination of women to contest elections and assist the country to achieve at least 30% quota of women representation in the next National Assembly.