Gambians vote in first presidential election since Jammeh’s era | politics news

Saturday’s vote will be closely watched as a test of the country’s democratic transition, where Jammeh has ruled for 22 years.

Gambians are set to go to the polls on Saturday in the tiny West African nation’s first presidential election since former dictator Yahya Jammeh fled into exile.

The vote will be closely watched as a test of the country’s democratic transition, where Jammeh ruled for 22 years after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994.

The former autocrat was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017 after Adama Barrow, relatively unknown at the time, defeated him at the ballot box.

President Barrow, 56, is running for re-election and faces five other candidates.

Veteran politician Osino Darboe is the main opposition candidate.

The 73-year-old is a lawyer who represented Jammeh’s opponents and ran several times for president against the former dictator.

He also served as Secretary of State and then Vice President under Barrow before stepping down in 2019.

Many voters in the impoverished country of more than two million people hope to improve their living standards.

spread of poverty

The Gambia, a piece of land about 480 kilometers (300 miles) long with a coastline of about 60 kilometers (37 miles) on the Atlantic Ocean, is surrounded by Senegal. It is one of the poorest countries in the world.

The World Bank says about half of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day.

The tourism-dependent economy of the former British colony has also been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barrow operates on a continuity card, noting the infrastructure projects completed under his supervision, as well as increasing civil liberties.

Polling is scheduled to open at 0800 GMT in The Gambia and is due to close at 1700 GMT.

An artist addresses the crowd during a campaign rally in support of Osino Darboe, former Gambian Vice President and leader of the main opposition party, the United Democratic Party, in Banjul on Thursday. [Guy Peterson/AFP]

Each candidate has their own ballot box in Gambian ballot boxes, and voters choose their preferred politician by throwing a piece of marble into one of the boxes.

The unusual voting method is a response to the country’s low literacy rates.

Preliminary results of the presidential election, which will be held in a single round, can be announced on Sunday.

The political shadow of Jami

Questions about Jammeh’s continued role in politics, and his possible return from exile, were central themes in the run-up to the elections.

The 56-year-old former dictator also sought to influence the vote, calling to address crowds of his supporters during the campaign period.

Jammeh retains significant political support in The Gambia.

However, another political camp is calling for criminal charges to be brought against Jamie for alleged abuses committed under his rule.

Barrow formed a truth commission to investigate the alleged abuses after taking office.

Before the hearings ended in May, I heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses about state-sanctioned death squads, witch hunts, and forcing AIDS patients on bogus treatments, among other abuses.

The commission recommended the government pursue criminal charges in November, in a final report it handed to Barrow without disclosing it to the public.

The names of the officials against whom charges were recommended have also not been released.

But the criminal charges are politically sensitive given Jammeh’s followers.

There are also growing concerns about Barrow’s enthusiasm for prosecutions, despite previous rhetoric that was tough on Jammeh.

In September, for example, the Barrow NPP announced a deal with the old Jammeh party, the Alliance for National Reorientation and Construction, in a controversial move seen as an election stunt.

Jammeh said the decision was made without his knowledge and that his supporters had formed a rival party. But rights groups fear that the agreement will reduce the chances of a trial.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo