UDP a force to be reckoned with – Steering committee

The United Democratic Party (UDP), the main opposition grouping in the Gambia, is on the offensive, dismissing assertions that the split of the embattled opposition National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD), in the run up to 2006 presidential elections, resulted in it [UDP] losing previous votes it enjoyed as the main opposition party in the country. In a statement sent to Jollofnews form the United Kingdom, the party’s steering committee described as a ‘‘complete glib’’ statements as part of a marathon thesis written by one of the architects of the now near redundant political alliance (NADD). They charged that it formed part of the politician’s ploy to conceal their personal longstanding reluctance to rally behind a UDP led alliance. Rubbishing claims by some opposition politician, they UDP camp said, categorically denied the UDP led alliance losing 80,000 votes in the 2006 presidential election, ‘‘neither is it tenable to attribute its defeat in that election to the type of alliance they had adopted with the National Reconciliation Party [NRP] and the Gambia People’s Democratic Party [GPDP].’’ The UDP has always been a force to reckon, they said. They warned that it would therefore be very helpful to the unification efforts if the almost nonexistent PDOIS and PPP-OJ take it upon themselves to immediately dissolve NADD without precondition. ‘‘While remaining steadfast in their determination to work with any party and/person[s] to build a strong and genuine coalition against the APRC in 2011,’’ the statement read, ‘‘the United Democratic Party will not allow itself to be hoodwinked by an eloquent but disingenuous and dogmatic ideologue.’’ Read the full contents of the statement below as regard how the various political parties fared.
In the 2001 presidential election, UDP had 133,590 votes. This was reduced to 104,000 votes in 2006 thereby registering a drop of 28,782 votes. The claim of approximately 80,000 votes lost is therefore outlandish and completely unfounded. Even if the NRP’s 2001 votes [32,198] are put into the equation, the figure is still less than 80,000. It would be 60,980. UDP’s drop in votes has to be put into the right perspective if one is to avoid misreading the result and distorting facts. The voter turn-out in 2001 was almost 90% [89.71%]. This figure had dwindled down to 58.58% in 2006 amounting to a registered drop of 31.1%, and this is notwithstanding the fact that the national voter register had been updated with 219,630 new voters. This is clearly a significant drop and has undoubtedly affected the general performance of the opposition in the 2006 presidential election. This is the conventional wisdom and it also explains why UDP had fewer votes in 2006 than in 2001. It is therefore untenable to use this as some kind of empirical evidence to the suggestion that a party led alliance is unsellable. It wasn’t like if these votes were lost to another party[s]. These are votes which weren’t in the pond for any party to fish. In other words, they did not participate in the electoral process. There is no evidence to the suggestion that this is due to the type of alliance adopted by the UDP or some form of protest specifically directed against it. In opposition politician’s own view was that the low voter turn-out was due to the NADD fall-out while the UDP blame it inter alia on the harassment and intimidation tactics employed by the incumbent. It has always been known that a low voter turn-out would most likely benefit the incumbent. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise to have seen the main opposition party getting fewer votes in 2006 than in previous elections where voter turn-out had been extremely high just as it is not a surprise that NADD barely crossed over the 5% threshold. Another factor responsible for UDP’s drop in votes was lack of adequate prior preparation. While the incumbent was using the ample time [five years] at their disposal to effectively prepare themselves for the 2006 election, UDP had itself bogged down in an endless dogmatic political wrangling within NADD. They attempted to start preparing the ground two years before the presidential election by embarking on a tour of the North Bank Rgion in their own right but this was suddenly called short after a request to that effect was made by NADD’s Executive Committee. They ended up been politically frozen within the NADD bubble which took them nowhere but the gutters of smear and being conspired against. This was a very expensive mistake which cost the UDP dearly and eventually hindered their ability to effectively mobilise and prepare the ground for a successful campaign and election in 2006. The lost of NRP leader’s Upper Saloum parliamentary seat in the 2005 by-election which was by the way necessitated by the former NADD spokesperson’s clandestine registration of NADD as a political party against every sound legal advice and in contravention of the Preamble and Part1[1] of the Memorandum of Understanding that explicitly established NADD as an alliance, has had a demoralising effect on the party’s base particularly in the Central River Division, and due to the dogmatic wrangling within NADD, they too have not had a chance to adequately prepare their base for the upcoming election. Even when the party contested the Upper Saloum parliamentary seat again in 2007 and in their own name, they still lose albeit narrowly. This was another factor that affected the UDP led alliance’s votes in 2006. However, to construe the effect of this problem as some kind of empirical evidence to the suggestion that party-led alliance does not work without taking into account all the inherent factors that inhibited UDP led alliance’s vote maximization strategy is a superficial assessment that has no chance of flying across the face of diligent scrutiny. Despite all the unfair criticisms and accusations of all sorts that were leveled against them in the run-up to the 2006 presidential election, the UDP and NRP were absolutely confident that in the light of the existing circumstance, a party-led alliance was the best option available to all opposition parties at the time and that position had been vindicated by the results of that election.
The Misrepresentations:
Claims that certain individuals had proposed a party-led alliance before are not strictly true. What happened was that PDOIS, like all other parties, knew very well that UDP’s position was to have a party- led alliance with the rest of the parties. They also knew that none of the parties including the NRP were at the time ready to support this proposal. The chairperson of the meeting that was convened to discuss possible proposals for the creation of a coalition/alliance of all opposition parties then felt obliged to put this proposal to the meeting alongside his own, the NADD option. At the end, the UDP position could not earn support from the other parties and that is how the NADD option ended up being adopted. This does not however reflect the then chairperson’s support for a Party-led alliance. In fact, this guy has a history of opposition to this type of alliance. In 2001 when the idea of a UDP led alliance first surfaced, he openly rejected it in a radio talk show, saying that when the first republican parties were banned under the terms of Decree 89 saved for PDOIS, the proponents of the UDP refused to join them to fight the junta in the 1996 presidential election but instead decided to form their own party. When he was invited to a meeting in 2006 that was to discuss UDP’s proposal to create a party-led alliance that was to include NADD, the would-be NADD chairperson didn’t even bother to show up. His claimed in a Daily News interview of 28th October 2009 that the UDP was better served by NADD by reasons of the former’s past electoral boycotts is not borne by facts. The UDP ended their boycott well before the signing of the MOU that established NADD and had successfully sponsored, in their own name and under their own banner, a candidate [Ousman Rambo Jatta] in the Bakau Old Cape ward bye-election ever since. Kemenseng Jammeh too contested and won the Jarra West bye- election of 2004 under UDP ticket and represented his constituency in parliament as a UDP member until when his seat was declared vacant in 2005. That was the time he contested under the NADD ticket. Therefore, to suggest that UDP somehow owe their return to the electoral process to NADD is palpably absurd and disingenuous. The UDP has always been a force to reckon with and the near lethal effect of their withdrawal on NADD is a clear testimony to that.
Former NADD’S chair’s diabolical electoral performance:
Rather than merely questioning the viability of the UDP led alliance and hyping on its setbacks, and in the interest of fair and balanced factual reporting, it should have been proper to elaborate on the political failings of [NADD] and the person who led it into the 2006 presidential election as a flag bearer. This would have given the readers a broader perspective of the issues before us. Not doing this is cheap politics and the perpetrators of such should have risen about it. In 2006, the NADD presidential candidate scored less than a thousand [1,000] votes in 43 constituencies out of a total of 48. In ten of them, he scored less than hundred [100] votes namely; Foni Berefet [67 votes], Nianija [65 votes], Foni Jarrol [62 votes], Jarra Central [55 votes], Kiang Central [51 votes], Kiang East [51 votes], Foni Bintang [45 votes], Foni Bondali [23 votes], Janjanbury [16 votes] and Foni Kansala [13 votes]. In his own constituency of Serrekunda Central where he was a sitting member of parliament, his votes [2,182] were doubled by the UDP candidate’s 4,908 votes.  His national score was only 23, 473, representing less than 6% [5.98%] of the total votes cast. This raises very serious questions about the political viability of NADD and the kind of political weight and pedigree its candidate often associates himself with. The level of political narcissism he has displayed in this unity debate is certainly not matched by his electoral records. It would therefore be very helpful to the unification efforts if this person, PDOIS and PPP-OJ take it upon themselves to immediately dissolve NADD without precondition. This will enable its leaders to easily return to their original parties thereby providing an opportunity for a fresh start that is untainted with the venom of the NADD debacle of 2006 and thereby closing the chapter of misinformation and slander that has poisoned relations between the UDP and leaders of certain fringe parties including PDOIS. While remaining steadfast in their determination to work with any party and/person[s] to build a strong and genuine coalition against the APRC in 2011, the United Democratic Party will not allow itself to be hoodwinked by an eloquent but disingenuous and dogmatic ideologue.

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