Diaspora Voting and Representation
The right of the Gambian diaspora to vote and be voted for is a basic and fundamental constitutional right, enshrined in clauses 26, 33 and entrenched clause 39(1) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia, applicable to all Gambians without distinction.
Section 26(a)(b) states: “Every citizen of The Gambia of full age and capacity shall have the right, without unreasonable restrictions – (a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; (b) to vote and stand for elections at genuine periodic elections for public office, which election shall be by universal and equal suffrage and be held by secret ballot”.
Section 39(1) states: “Every citizen of the Gambia being eighteen years or older and of sound mind shall have the right to vote for the purpose of elections of a President and Members of the National Assembly, and shall be entitled to be registered as a voter in a National Assembly constituency for that purpose”.
Section 33(2) states: “Subject to the provisions of subsection (5), no law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect”.
Any law, policy or practice that purports or seeks to discriminate against the diaspora, must be disregarded, as it is the Constitution that reigns supreme as stipulated in Section 4, which states:
“This Constitution is the supreme law of the Gambia and any law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”.
On 27 January 2021, in the case of Bakary Bunja Dabo and Others versus Attorney General and Independent Electoral Commission, Case No. SC 001/2020, the Supreme Court of The Gambia reaffirmed and clarified the entrenched rights of Gambians in the diaspora to vote. It stated that:
“Pursuant to section 39 of the Constitution, every Gambian, including those residing outside the jurisdiction, is entitled to be registered and to vote in election to the offices of President, members of the National Assembly, for local government offices and traditional rulers as well as in referenda”.
The Migration and Sustainable Development in The Gambia project (MSDG) has been working and cooperating with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), National Assembly (NA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other stakeholders on this subject since January 2018. The MSDG project provides technical support on all aspects of diaspora voting and representation, including:
- Research and analysis of Gambian diaspora populations
- Consultations and engagement with diaspora groups and networks
- Research and options of best practices in diaspora Out-of-Country voting
- Logistics and operations of diaspora voter registration and voting in the 2021 presidential elections
- Constitutional amendments for the election of Diaspora National Assembly Members representing demarcated Diaspora Constituencies in the 2022 parliamentary elections.