Electoral reforms, which marked the first time in decades that Gambian voters prioritized comprehensive democracy, came largely in response to the 2016 Presidential and 2017 general elections. In those elections the voters resoundingly backed efforts to reform the Gambia’s voting system of first-past-the-post ( FPTP), redistricting, ethics, presidential term limits, and money in politics.

Indeed, regardless of our ideological and political persuasions, Gambians overwhelmingly want better campaign finance rules.

The 2016 Presidential elections were a watershed for democracy. Gambian voters care about these issues in a way that they have not demonstrated before.

The Gambia’s electoral system is broken. It’s time to overhaul it. Electoral reform in a first -past- the -post (FPTP) known as (simple majority, winner-take-all) to 50 per cent -plus -one-vote (second round of voting) and campaign finance laws, these reforms are the assumption that are nationally acceptable choices of election  reforms voters are yearning for from this regime.

This is a moment where democracy and electoral reform are front and centre, and the Independent Electoral Commission’s reform is something that Gambians must tackle if we want to have a more functional electoral process.

The Gambian voters need a functional Independent Election Commission. And while it’s ultimately up to the National Assembly to reform and legislate the country’s electoral laws especially on campaign finance laws, there is currently no guarantee that those laws are going to be enforced.

If the executive and the lawmakers are serious about protecting the integrity of elections and the political process, fixing the Independent Electoral Commission should be high on their priority list of all election campaign reform promises.

The most basic and universally accepted principle of political funding is Transparency. Adequate disclosure – of donor names, amounts, political beneficiaries – is essential in a functioning democracy. The voter has every right to know – nay, the voter must know! – Who is funding which party and by how much.

Ah, but then people would join the dots and see the picture emerge – the links between policy decisions and certain corporates who may have enriched political coffers? In my skewed vision of the world, transparency means information available to all stakeholders.

I think the Constitutional Review Commission should include an electoral campaign financing law; the voting public need not know who has transparent electoral campaign finance. The beneficiary political party or politician will ostensibly not know the donor’s identity and hence will only be required to tell the Election Commission that it received 5000 Gambian dalasi amount by way of electoral finance donation but will not need to disclose names.

The donor company or individual politician on its balance sheet will simply declare that a donation to the tune of 5000 Gambian dalasi but will not declare the name of the donor. Does that sound transparent, Gambians?

Let me clear misconceptions that political funding needs to be cleaned up. A very large part of donation coming to political parties by the donors, quantum and source is not known by the Gambian electorates and the electoral commission.

Substantially, our electoral system needs accountability and transparency, donors who give these monies, their balance sheet should reflect. It will ensure cleaner money coming from donors, cleaner money coming to political party and ensure significant transparency. Campaign financing will ensure clean money & significant transparency against the current system of unclean money in our politics.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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