News24

Gambia poll campaign too short

2011-10-05 22:06

Banjul - Gambian opposition parties on Wednesday accused the election commission of compromising November presidential polls by refusing to lengthen a "grossly inadequate" 11-day election campaign.

Electoral commission chair Alhaji Mustapha Carayol said at a press conference on Tuesday night that the campaign from 12 to 22 November would go ahead as planned and the dates could not be changed.

Hamat Bah, leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP), said: "We only hope and pray that the IEC will act as quickly as possible to address our concerns because the time frame allocated for us to campaign is grossly inadequate.

"The ruling APRC party has been using the radio and television for over 1 000 days, and we would only be allowed to use it within 11 days, which is sad."

The main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has said it fears the vote would not be free and fair due to the short campaign period and the fact the opposition was not allowed to hold rallies.

Ousainou Darboe, leader of the UDP, also condemned lack of access to state media.

"We have seen the APRC (Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction) having access to the television every minute of the day, selling their ideas and programmes, which we do not have."

Five opposition parties plan to take part in the elections, but unless they can overcome differences and form an alliance, are seen as unlikely to present a credible challenge to incumbent President Yahya Jammeh's ruling party.

Gambia, the smallest country on the African mainland, will hold elections on November 24 and Jammeh has said his victory is "a foregone conclusion" and only God can remove him from power.