By Lamin Cham
At the close of nominations last night, an estimated 150 candidates have put forward their names to contest the April 6 National Assembly election in 53 constituencies nationally.
The largest number of candidates came from the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress GDC of Mamma Kandeh. The Party is contesting all but one of the 53 seats—the Foni Kansala Constituency.
Speaking to The Standard over the weekend, one of the leading GDC candidates in the KM region, Kebba Nyang, said his party is not over ambitious, rather their confidence is reposed in the fact that the GDC is the largest party in the Gambia as shown by its performance in the Presidential election. “Our target is to sweep all but one in every ten seats,” he said. With suspicion still burning within the governing Coalition members and the fact that the APRC is not covering the whole country, the GDC is hoping to cash in the confidence crisis to sway the voters.
The former ruling party, the APRC, sponsored candidates in over 31 constituencies, most of them in the West Coast and Kanifing Municipality. However up country, a prominent party member and former nominated member and short time Information Minister Seedy Njie was nominated for the Nianija constituency.
Speaking to The Standard Thursday one of the party’s young vanguards Momodou A Njie contesting the Bundunka Kunda consistency, said the APRC is still relevant and will continue to defend its ‘good’ record in Gambia’s political history. ”We shall do our quota knowing that the country belongs to all of us and we are willing to collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure that the Gambia is developed.”
However the biggest noise in the whole process came from the coalition members who could not settle for method of a united front in this election. Last minute talks on tactical alliance did not succeed and the parties had to go their different ways. However, officials from many coalition parties said there is hope that negotiations for a more united method could be achieved even after the nominations.
“All this confusion is caused by the politicians in the coalition who failed get down to all details in building the coalition. They only stopped at the Presidential election; look how the supporters are confused now,” a coalition supporter lamented yesterday. He expressed hope that negotiations will succeed before it is too late.
As a result of the breakdown in talks, the parties went their ways, with the United Democratic Party putting 36 candidates nationwide while the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism PDOIS put 22 candidates. Others in the coalition, NRP, GMC, NCP, GPDP have all put up unconfirmed fewer candidates.
However, dozens of Independent candidates have surfaced across the country; a number of them either in protest against their dropping by one or more of the coalition members or outright ambition for a political career.
At the close of proceedings last night, the head of Communications at the Independent Electoral Commission, Joseph Colley, said the body is busy compiling the final list expected to be announced early this week.
“All the parties and candidates will be called to a meeting where they will scrutinize each other’s particulars as well as receive the code and schedule for campaign,” he said.
Mr Colley said all parties have agreed that the campaign period for this election be extended for three weeks and this is likely to be put in the final discussion leading up to the drawing of the schedule.
“But the general rules and ethics remain the same: respect for each other, peaceful and responsible rhetoric and good will to maintain peace,” he noted.
Gambians will go to polls on April 6 to elect 53 national assembly members.