The leader of the opposition coalition, Adama Barrow, has been declared president-elect of The Gambia in Thursday’s polls after he secured 263, 515 ballots of the popular vote.
A coalition of seven opposition parties and an independent candidate threw their weight behind Mr. Barrow in the December 1, 2016 presidential election. They had been credited to launch the most credible challenge to President Jammeh’s 22-year rule.
Yahya Jammeh, the incumbent and leader of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) who was seeking a fifth term, trailed by 51, 416 votes. He secured 212, 099 votes of the total ballots cast.
He conceded defeat according to local journalists monitoring the results from the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) along Bertil Harding Highway in Kanifing.
Behind Jammeh, is Mama Kandeh, the leader of the newly formed Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), with 102, 969 of the total votes cast.
The Gambia’s repressed opposition are of the view that “no one candidate or political party can win against the incumbent” in a first past the post system of voting – which offers victory to a candidate with a simple majority of the total votes cast.
“I am not going to lose,” Mr. Barrow told journalists shortly after casting his ballot on Thursday morning.
“Gambians have responded very well. More people should come out and vote. I am confident that I am going to win the elections because I campaigned throughout the country for 14 days and have seen big crows,” he said.
“Those crowds will turn to votes and that will make a big difference.”
When he cast his vote, Mama Kandeh of the GDC said he will accept the verdict of Gambians at the end of the polls.
He said: “I just cast my vote and it is very interesting that Gambians have come out in big numbers to cast their votes which is a very encouraging situation.
“Of course, that [accepting the results] was why we went out there to talk to the Gambian people and at the end of the day I don’t decide, they decide. But, if I lose and they [the coalition] invite me to a dinner will I go, of course I will go when they invite me. But I don’t expect to lose anyway.”
Mr. Kandeh said he was expecting to win the polls by 70 per cent of the total votes cast and would extend an invitation to a dinner to other politicians.
Shortly after the winner was announced on State TV by the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Alieu Momar Njai at 1pm on Friday, thousands of people (including supporters of the GDC) took to the streets in Serekunda and other parts of The Gambia to celebrate.
Known only two presidents
Until Thursday, Gambians had known only two presidents in fifty-one years. The smallest state on mainland Africa gained independence from British colonialists in February 1965.
Its’ first president, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara who is credited with setting up the stage for “strong democratic values” including respect for human rights, ruled the country for 30 years. He was said to have presided over widespread corruption.
On July 22, 1994, Mr. Jammeh, then a 29-year old soldier, ousted the Jawara-led regime in a bloodless coup.
For 22 years, his regime has been accused of massive violations of human rights including suppressing the right to dissent and restricting press freedom and freedom of expression.
While his supporters hail him for bringing “massive infrastructural development” to the country like schools, hospitals, health centers and roads, Mr. Jammeh, who is often referred to as a “dictator” by his opponents, said he is a “dictator of development”.