(JollofNews) – Opposition parties in the Gambia have accused President Yahya Jammeh of plotting to kill multi-party democracy and transform the Gambia into a one party state.
The APRC regime of Mr Jammeh has tabled a bill, the Elections (Amendment) Act 2015, which seeks to increase the registration fee political parties pay to contest elections in the country.
The bill, which will be debated by members of the country’s ruling party dominated National Assembly on Tuesday, intends to increase the registration fee for presidential candidates from D10,000 to D1 million and parliamentary candidates from D5,000 to D100,000. It also intends to raise the registration fee for mayoral candidates from D2, 500 to D50, 000 and local councillors from D1, 250 to D10, 000. The money is not refundable.
In the current electoral law, losing candidates are refunded the money when they secure 40 per cent of the total votes.
But Lawyer Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and Hamat Bah of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) have denounced the bill, describing it as preposterous, ridiculous and an attempt by Mr Jammeh to make it almost impossible for opposition parties to contest in elections in the West African country.
Mr Darboe said the monetary conditions required to be satisfied by any person who wishes to contest for any of the elective office constitute unreasonable restrictions to the exercise of guaranteed rights to do so.
He added: “What is the rationale for decreeing the payments/deposits as non refundable? Why charge a fee of D1 million for registering a political party? Is the IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] now a business/commercial enterprise?
“This bill exposes Jammeh’s unwillingness for meaningful electoral reform. The Jammeh amendment ignores the fact that Section 26 of the constitution guarantees every citizen of the Gambia of full age and capacity the right without unreasonable restrictions to take part in the conduct of public affairs directly or through freely chosen representatives; to vote and stand for elections at genuine periodic elections for public officers.”
For Hamat Bah, the bill if approved by members of the National Assembly will prevent prospective candidates from contesting in elections in the Gambia.
“The increase is unacceptable considering the fact the Gambia is a least developed country and one of the ten poorest countries in the world,” he said. “D1 million is beyond the present level of the country.”
Mr Bah said he is 100 per cent certain that bill will be approved by the Gambian National Assembly and would seriously hamper his party’s ability to contest elections. .
He added: “Imagine if we want to put up candidates in all the 48 constituencies of the Gambia in the next election and pay D100,000 for each, you talking of D4.8 million and this is different from our cost of running the election including campaign materials and other things.”
Meanwhile, another opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) has called on the Jammeh regime to suspend the introduction of the bill and open up consultation with the opposition to reach a consensus on electoral reform.
“If this proposal is rejected then the people should get a clear signal that they should become decisive in preventing self perpetuating rule from prevailing in 2016,” the party said.