By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Gambians are about to vote in the Sixth Legislature into the National Assembly on 9th April 2022. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced that it had concluded plans to commence Nomination of National Assembly Candidates and that Nomination Forms will be available on 4th February 2022.
The Gambia’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has clarified that there are 53 Constituencies and not 48 as stated in outdated copies of the Gambia’s 1997 Constitution which was amended in 2015. Gainako Online News can also confirm that 53 National Assembly Member (NAMs) were elected in April 2017. A further five NAMs were nominated by President Adama Barrow also in April 2017.
According to Mr Sambujang Njie, the IEC CEO “technically speaking as an electoral commission I’ve been hearing about section 88, let’s take note that section 88 was amended in 2015 so if it is to be amended again to cater for this let the lawyers align the language because Gambians are becoming too legalistic before we find ourselves in some right trap”.
Mr Njie explained that “because people are of the notion that section 88 is calling for 53 [NAMs composed of 48 elected NAMs and 5 Nominated NAMs] but there was an amendment to that. I participated in that amendment”.
2009 Reprinted Version of the 1997 Constitution. More recent versions say fifty-three members
Speaking to Mr Njie over the phone he informed FactCheck Gambia that there were 48 constituencies before 2015 and the change came into effect for the 2017 Parliamentary Elections.
According to Mr Njie there was a re-demarcation of the constituencies and boundaries which increased the number of constituencies by five. This means that currently there are 53 elected NAMs and 5 Nominated NAMs, making a total of 58 NAMs.
Below is a breakdown of the constituencies that were split up and re-demarcated.
IEC CEO explained that the constituencies are currently 53 and that in 2015 some of the changes include;
“Kombo North was split into Sanneh Mentereng, Busumbala and Old Yundum,
Kombo Central was split into Brikama North and Brikama South,
Serrekunda Central was split into Serrekunda and Bundung Kunda, and
Serrekunda East was split into Tallingding Kunjang and Latrikunda Sabijie”.
Plans to Increase the Number of NAMs to 76
On Saturday 15th January 2021 Mr Njie spoke at a consultation with Parliamentarians on the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2021 organised by the CSO Gender Platform. The Bill pioneered by the CSO Gender Platform and partners seeks to reserve 16 elected seats for female NAMs in future elections after 2022.
At the moment there are 53 elected NAMs and 5 Nominated NAMs, totalling 58 NAMs. However, if the aforementioned amendments are approved by Gambian Parliamentarians, it will increase the number of elected NAMs from 53 to 69 and reduce the number of nominated NAMs from 5 to 2, making a total of 71 NAMs.
Like the CSO Gender Platform, the Gambian Diaspora has been advocating for a seat in the National Assembly and the right to vote. The Chairperson of the IEC, Alieu Momarr Njie noted at the same consultation meeting that their institution would push for a bill to provide for five Diaspora Representatives in Parliament.
“So, we ask the National Assembly to approve the change of the Constituencies so they can have five Diaspora constituencies. And we will go round and register them. And they’ll vote and be voted for in parliament. So that’s important, so we’re asking for five more seats in parliament for the Diasporans,” said Chairperson Njie.
If the IEC’s recommendation to Parliament is approved the list of NAMs could increase by an additional five Diaspora constituencies, from 71 to 76 NAMs in total.