Counting of votes begins in Gambia’s presidential vote | Election News

One million voters have registered for the elections, which is a major test of stability in the small west African country.

Polls closed in The Gambia after citizens cast their ballots to elect the president in a fiercely contested race seen as a test of democratic progress.

It was the first democratic country in West Africa election Since former President Yahya Jammeh left office in 2016.

Jammeh, who was defeated by an opposition coalition supporting the current president, Adama Barrow, fled to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after refusing to accept the defeat.

The Gambia uses a unique voting system – marbles are dropped into the ballot drum for each candidate – to avoid corrupt ballot papers in a country with a high illiteracy rate.

Paro, a 56-year-old former security guard and real estate developer, cast his vote in Banjul, accompanied by his two wives.

“I am happy to see a high turnout from Gambian voters,” he said afterwards, adding that he was confident of winning.

Results are expected by Sunday under the simple majority system, but provisional numbers will start coming in late Saturday.

Barrow faces five contenders, including his former political advisor, Osino Darboe, 73, who is considered his main rival.

There were no reports of disturbances in the vote, and Darbo called his supporters in the tourism-dependent country to remain calm.

“Remember, we are in the tourist season, the slightest disturbance in this country will turn away all the tourists,” he said.

Africa’s smallest country

Nearly 1 million people out of a population of 2.5 million are registered to vote in The Gambia, Africa’s smallest country.

Before polling stations opened, officials carried voting drums outside to show voters’ queues were empty.

Other candidates include Issa Mbe Fal, who served as a lead advisor to the Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission which has chronicled Jammeh’s rule abuses, and Mama Kandeh, who ranked third in 2016 with the support of Jammeh.

As the election campaign wrapped up on Thursday, hundreds of jubilant Barrow supporters gathered in downtown Banjul for one last rally, hoping another Barrow state would ensure stability as Gambia seeks to put 22 years of Jammeh’s rule behind it.

But critics said Barrow reneged on his promises, noting how he reneged on his pledge to serve just three years after his 2016 victory. Barrow argued that the constitution required him to serve a full five-year term.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo