Ballot boxes
Ballot boxes

(JollofNews) – The importance of voting and democracy dates back to the time of ancient Greece. The ancient Romans also utilized democracy which set a precedent for future nations.

Why is Voting important?

“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” ~Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States

Who is qualified to vote?
According to the constitution of the Gambia, Chapter 39:
(1) Every citizen of The Gambia being eighteen years or older and of sound mind shall have the right to vote for the purpose of elections of a President and members of the National Assembly, and shall be entitled to be registered as a voter in a National Assembly constituency for that purpose.
(2) Every citizen of The Gambia who is a registered voter shall be entitled to vote in a referendum held in accordance with this Constitution or any other law.
(3) Every citizen of The Gambia being of the age of eighteen years or older and of sound mind shall be entitled, in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter and any Act of the National Assembly providing for such elections to vote in elections for local government authorities and traditional rulers in the area in which he or she is ordinarily resident.

Reasons to Vote
First and foremost, it is important to vote because It is your right. Even today there are countries where people are still fighting for the right to vote. But luckily for you, the constitution of the Gambia guarantees you the right to vote as a citizen. Therefore, exercise your constitutional right by voting.

Voting is very important in a democratic nation because it provides the citizens of that nation with an opportunity to voice their opinion and vote for what they believe in. In addition, when you vote a government into power, the elected officials are accountable for their behaviour while in office, and it prevents a minority from dictating the policies of a majority.  Furthermore, another reason for voting is, so you can decide. Why let other people decide what is best for you when you have a voice? You might be asking yourself, what voice is that? The voice is simply: Your VOTE!

President Yahya Jammeh has been ruling Gambia since 1994
President Yahya Jammeh is seeking a fifth term

Representation is another reason why every single Gambian eligible to vote in the December, 2016 elections should vote. Does it seem as if politicians don’t “get” you or they are just representing their own needs? Do you want politicians or leaders in office who represent your needs and concerns? Then vote. That is your answer because when you fail to do, someone else will vote. In order to cancel out someone else’s vote. Whether it’s your friend, neighbour, your teacher, or somebody else; am sure you probably know someone who is going to vote the opposite of you. If you don’t vote, someone else will. The political system of the Gambia was designed for citizen participation, so if you don’t vote other people are going to make the decisions for you.

There are many Gambians who are not happy with the government for many reasons, this has resulted in them voicing their discontent through various forms ranging from, peaceful protests, social media, print and electronic medias, or even murmuring in private corners. All of the above mentioned are just mediums of getting their voices heard. Do they make a difference, the answer is yes but voting for a government that represents your needs is the key. Voting in a nation allows people to participate in their government. People have the opportunity to vote for what they believe represents their needs.

Voting and democracy also holds representatives accountable for the decisions they make while in office.  In most democratic nations, elected leaders do not cling unto power for life; instead they cede power after two terms. Normally after the first term, if they wish to run for another term, they must act in the best interest of the citizens/people in order to have their support in a future election. If the citizens are pleased with what the representative has to offer, they will re-elect them. On the other hand, if a representative, such as the president, does not satisfy the needs of the citizens/people, the people will not vote for him/her for a second term.

Another reason to vote is: It is your money. The president and members of parliament alongside their teams, you vote for will decide how to spend your money. Vote for those that you believe will represent your interest and use your money in the right way and not to satisfy their own selfish needs.

fb_img_1478621600768To the youths, you will need a good job when you have graduated from university or higher education, you need somewhere to work and you will want job training, you also want pay equity and fairness in hiring process. To every Gambian, young or old, male or female, you want security, crime prevention, laws and law enforcement, good roads, hospitals, schools, and other infrastructures. You should not wait for other people to be making choices for you. You should have a voice in the things that affect you!

The final reason as to why it is important for every Gambian citizen eligible to vote in the upcoming December 2016 election should vote, is simple. Voting in this election is important because it prevents a minority from dictating the policies of a majority. It is often said that, in a democracy “power is in the hands of a majority, not of a minority”.  The constitution of the Gambia provides political and social rights to all citizens, even the minorities. Without voting for the right leader with the right policies, policies that represent only a small portion of the citizens could rule our nation. These policies would not represent the opinions and objectives.

In conclusion, voting and democracy is crucial in a government because it allows citizens/people to participate in their government, it also holds elected representatives responsible for their decisions, actions or inactions, and it prevents a minority from dictating the policies of a majority. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. What this simply means is that, the citizens of a nation have the chance to actively be involved in the running of their nation. If the entire nation participates in the government, the nation will thrive. Therefore, it is the duty of every Gambian eligible to vote to go out and vote for a progressive and prosperous Gambia where the words of our national creed will be manifested:

“For The Gambia, our homeland
We strive and work and pray,
That all may live in unity,
Freedom and peace each day.
Let justice guide our actions
Towards the common good,
And join our diverse peoples
To prove man’s brotherhood.
We pledge our firm allegiance
Our we renew;
Keep us, great God of nations,
To The Gambia ever true.”

You may be thinking or saying to yourself, “This voting stuff sounds great, but it is not for, I am not interested in politics?” or you may be thinking, “I am not old enough to vote anyways.” If this is you, remember that there are many ways to be a part of the voting process before you are actually old enough to vote. The best way to get involved is to spread the word around your community and get as many people who are eligible to vote registered and to go out and vote on the actual date.

mamma-kandehVoting is very important to your future. Remember, knowledge is power and if you don’t learn how to use your civic “voice” when it comes to making decisions, you will never be heard.

Lastly, in order for voting to be successful, the citizens of the nation must be educated in the importance of elections and how their votes can affect them. If voters are educated on the policies they are voting for, they will understand the possible outcomes of various policies and therefore will make better decisions.  On top of that, they will be capable of making informed decisions.