Alhaji Mustapha Carayol, IEC chairman
Alhaji Mustapha Carayol, IEC chairman

Dormant political parties in The Gambia faces the risk of being deregistered, according to a strategic plan set in motion by the country’s elections governing body, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The IEC announced on Monday, February 9, that it plans to deregister political parties in considered “inactive” by December 2015.

The IEC has on its official website 10 registered political parties. The registered parties include the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP), National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD), National Convention Party (NCP), National Democratic Action Movement (NDAM), National Reconciliation Party (NRP), Peoples Democratic Organization for Independence Socialism (PDOIS), Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), and the United Democratic Party (UDP).

Two parties are likely to be affected by the plan: the NCP which has been dormant since its leader Sheriff Mustapha Dibba died shortly after he was released from state custody in 2007, and NDAM, which has been rendered moribund since 2009 when its leader Lamin Waa Juwara decided to serve as governor and minister in the ruling APRC regime, our correspondent said.

The IEC’s Elections Strategic Plan 2015-2019 has been submitted to the National Assembly. It contains plans for electoral reform and to set clear the role of the Commission regarding certain conflicting roles.

Six opposition parties, also known as the Group of Six, have since 2012 boycotted parliamentary and local government elections and have called for electoral reform to ensure a level playing field.

On February 9, 2015, the National Assembly heard from the Commission that its Strategic Plan is meant to review and amend the relevant Acts to harmonize the conflicting roles of the Commission.

Mustapha L. Carayol, the IEC Chairperson said “the Plan also covers a review of the demarcation of electoral boundaries, reintroduction of interviews during the voter registration process, enable continuous voter education, deregistration of inactive political parties, formation of party alliance, and vesting powers or responsibility on the IEC for issuing permits for political forums.

“The IEC will develop terms of references for electoral framework review by March 2015, put in place mechanisms for the continuous review of electoral legislation and polices as per best practice in the world and ensure a level playing field in the electoral process.

“The strategic plan stated that IEC will set up a committee of key staff and stakeholders to review current voting eligibility criteria and procedures including Diaspora voting by July 2016. Talking about the possible deregistration of dormant political parties.”

Mr. Carayol said the IEC budgeted for 10 political parties during elections but some never take part. “Whenever we are preparing a budget for elections we budget for ten political parties, at the end some will not participate. This makes our work very difficult.”

Presidential elections in The Gambia are likely to be held in November 2016 but the IEC is yet to announce a specific date.