Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Dotard: an educational insult

Read more

#TECH 24

Medtech: Repairing the human body

Read more

ENCORE!

Jennifer Lawrence on why she's unafraid to speak out

Read more

#THE 51%

Hola "Ellas Hoy" - The 51 Percent welcomes its sister show on FRANCE 24 Spanish

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

A stroll through the Corsican city of Calvi, jewel of the Mediterranean

Read more

REPORTERS

The torment of Christians living in Syria’s Khabur valley

Read more

FOCUS

'Generation Merkel' yearns for continuity and stability

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Amazon rainforest pays heavy price for Brazil's political crisis

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Presidential election re-run pushed back to October 26th

Read more

Africa

Gambians head to polls for first free parliamentary vote in 22 years

© Seyllou, AFP | A woman wears a t-shirt with an electoral poster of Madi MK Ceesay during a rally, in Banjul on April 4, 2017

Video by Duncan WOODSIDE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-04-06

Gambians head to the polls on Thursday for the first time since the departure of longtime leader Yahya Jammeh, with multiple parties poised to enter parliament after 22 years of effective one-party rule.

Several opposition parties united to form a coalition in December to oust Jammeh from power and deliver flagbearer Adama Barrow to victory as the new president.

But internal tensions caused that coalition to break apart, meaning nine parties will run in Thursday's legislative polls including Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) and the strongest traditional opposition force, the United Democratic Party (UDP).

They face a significant threat from the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), a youth-led party which did not join the governing coalition, and whose leader Mama Kandeh came third in the presidential poll.

More than 880,000 Gambians are eligible to vote, with the polls open from 8:00am until 5:00pm.

“The atmosphere here in Banjul, the capital of Gambia, is calm and peaceful going into the parliamentary polls, a stark contrast to the worries that surrounded the presidential election a few months ago,” said Duncan Woodside, FRANCE 24’s Gambian correspondent.

The first results are expected during the evening and a full set due by late morning on Friday.

There is no formal opinion polling in the tiny west African nation, making it difficult to establish voting intentions, but the scarcity of APRC rallies which once dominated every street during campaigning suggests voters are unlikely to give them the near-total majority of past elections.

There are 53 seats up for grabs in The Gambia's National Assembly, five more than in 2012, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Five extra places are appointed by the president to give a total of 58 seats in the legislative chamber, which was long derided as a rubber stamp for Jammeh's executive orders.

Roll of the marble

The African Union, regional ECOWAS bloc and the European Union have all sent observers to monitor voters casting their ballots with The Gambia's unique system, where marbles are dropped into coloured metal barrels representing different candidates.

Miroslav Poche, chief EU observer and a Czech MEP, told AFP that the IEC had showed its impartiality under great pressure by standing up to Jammeh when he lost the vote last year and filed legal action against the body.

"The IEC has proved itself during the December 2016 presidential elections," he said, but added that the marble drum system was a "big challenge" for his technical support team.

Gambia's post-Jammeh polls: how the election works

It is the first time the EU has sent a fully-fledged observer mission to The Gambia, and it has bankrolled the vote at a time when state coffers are almost empty.

West African troops remain on Gambian soil three months after Jammeh's departure, and will stay until Barrow is satisfied security service reforms have removed rogue elements from its ranks.

Experts say that while the result could go feasibly in any direction, the relative novelty of a truly democratic election might distract from the unified front required to carry out the comprehensive overhaul of the state promised by Barrow.

"Given Jammeh's stranglehold over Gambian politics for the past 22 years, the country's opposition parties are inexperienced to the democratic process and relatively weak institutionally," said Joseph Siegle, director of research at the US-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

"Once Jammeh was defeated and departed the country (under pressure from ECOWAS), the competing agendas and political aspirations of the respective political actors in the opposition were bound to emerge," he added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2017-04-06

  • Gambia

    Gambia welcomes president Barrow to start new era

    Read more

  • GAMBIA

    Gambia's new leader Barrow to return home after crisis

    Read more

  • GAMBIA

    Video: Joy as refugees return to a Gambia without Jammeh

    Read more

COMMENT(S)