In line with the Election Act, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) ordered all registered political parties in the country to conduct an elective congress. Failure to do so will be a breach of the electoral laws.
All parties complied and held their congresses last month, with the exception of GMC who held theirs much earlier. Below is my assessment of the parties and I believe is a true reflection of their state. Here in ascending order:
Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC)
The widely held theory is that former President, Jammeh is APRC and APRC is Jammeh, and without him, the party will not survive. This was a perfect opportunity to put those theories to bed by electing a new leader but they failed spectacularly.
The party supporters are living in denial and wouldn’t accept their new status. The sooner they recognize their status and work on their strength the better for them. Nobody deserves to lead that party than Fabakary Tombong Jatta. He’s the true definition of “Foroo”.
Hon. Jatta, like Suku Singhateh and co, has good reasons to abandon APRC citing Jammeh’s hate speech towards Mandinkas, but he stayed. He was an ardent AFPRC supporter and later one of the founding members of APRC back in 1996. The man hasn't looked back since. Unlike most APRC stalwarts who were living large, Hon Jatta is/was living at the compound of his adopted father, the late Imam Siaka Jaiteh. So, a missed opportunity for APRC.
Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC)
The party was recently rocked with mass resignation of its senior officials. So, the congress couldn’t come at a better time to fill the vacated positions.
Looking at the composition of the new executive, GDC probably has the most ethnically diverse executive than any other party in The Gambia. The party is coping well with teething problems, mistakes were made and will continue to be made until they master the craft of our politics. The Gambia’s politics, just like most of Africa, is tribal base. Ignore this reality at your peril.
Jolas have aligned themselves with APRC, Mandinkas have aligned themselves with UDP and GDC has a strong Fulani base. The strategic thing to do was to have a Wollof or Sarahulleh as deputy party leader to consolidate their gains in past elections, but GDC went for another Mandinka deputy. Time will tell if they made another blunder.
People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS)
Not much was expected from the PDOIS congress and it panned out just as expected. Their leaders are probably the sincerest politicians in the land. Among their many issues is that they’re stuck in the past stubbornly refusing to evolve. Their inability to adapt is hurting them.
Hon. Halifa Sallah recently came under attack for abstaining from voting in Parliament, saying the bill was illegal so he doesn’t want to legitimise it by voting. Wait a minute; Halifa went to the late-night session and participated in the deliberation. He inadvertently legitimised the process by his above actions. This is not the first time he abstained from voting.
In 2017 leading to the National Assembly elections, when coalition partners were voting which modality (Independent coalition candidates or Tactical Alliance) to adopt, he again abstained from voting leaving OJ Jallow hanging even though he favoured independent coalition candidates.
Let me make a prediction, come 2021 presidential election, there will be no clear winner in the first round. The PDOIS leadership would refuse to be part of the second round by electing not to back any of the top two leading parties.
People Progressive Party (PPP)
The interesting thing about PPP’s congress is that non-members were more interested in the outcome than card-holding members. It was billed as old vs youth and the latter triumphed.
The ironic thing was the old guards complained of voter inducement, intimidation among many irregularities. These are the hallmarks of PPP, aren’t they? Just ask NCP supporters.
What I found intriguing was that UDP supporters were rooting for BB Darboe. They claimed he will revive the party and bring back old traditional voters of the party. Will that not doom UDP? Because UDP is the child of PPP. The truth is they wanted BB at the helms so the party can be another stooge party for UDP.
United Democratic Party (UDP)
In January 2017, UDP replaced APRC as the leading party in The Gambia and became a major stakeholder in President Adama Barrow’s government.
All the 33 positions in their executive were up for grabs, but interestingly all went unopposed signalling behind the scene wheeling and dealing.
UDP’s executive is the least ethnically diverse in the country. It was reported that the Banjul Mayoress tried without success to be the party’s foreign/external secretary. The position went to a former APRC supporter, Tombong Saidy.
Finally, other parties are too insignificant to waste column inches. If IEC were to call a snap election today the results will be as followed: UDP 35%, GDC 26%, APRC 18%, PDOIS 8%, NRP 7% and others combined 6%. Please note there is 5% margin of error. This is provided that President Barrow did not form his own party.
Written by Saul Sarr
A keen follower of Gambian politics