|Candidate (Party)||Number of votes||% of votes|
|Yahya Jammeh (APRC)||470 550||71.54%|
|Ousainou Darboe (UDP)||114 177||17.36%|
|Hamat Bah* (UF)||73 060||11.11%|
* Hamat Bah ran as an independent candidate supported by the United Front
Incumbent long-serving President Yahya Jammeh won The Gambia’s latest presidential election, extending his 17-year rule over the country. Jammeh, who came to power through leading a coup in 1994, garnered 71.54% of the vote, followed by Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who won 17.36%. The remaining votes were won by independent candidate Hamat Bah.
The election was shrouded in controversy, with reports by the opposition of voter intimidation and media manipulation in favour of the ruling Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (APRC). The process also drew external criticism from the Economic Community of West African States, which declined to send an observer mission to the country, as it did not view the political environment as being conducive to free, fair and transparent polls.
The Gambian president is elected by direct popular vote for a period of five years. The country employs a first-past-the-post electoral system.
Interestingly, The Gambia also uses a unique polling method whereby voters are given one marble each, which they drop into a drum that corresponds to the candidate of their choice. The marble then strikes a bell inside, which prevents multiple voting from taking place.
There were 800 000 registered voters for the poll, which saw a turnout of 82%.
President Jammeh has been a controversial figure since he came to power in 1994, especially in the international community. In 2007, Jammeh said he had a cure for Aids, which consisted of a herbal concoction that only worked if consumed on a Thursday. The claim was fiercely criticised by international health experts.
In 2008, he inflamed human rights groups by ordering all homosexuals to leave The Gambia. Further, prior to the recent election, Jammeh claimed he ruled by divine intervention and that neither a vote nor a coup could oust him or the ruling APRC.
Meanwhile, Jammeh has decided to delay his swearing-in ceremony to February next year, and insists that everyone wear green for the occasion. It is through these narcissistic tendencies that Jammeh sees himself as an all-powerful ruler, loved by all Gambians.
His apparent manipulation of the vote, as well as his alleged fraudulent use of the media indicate that he has taken advantage of State machinery to ensure that he stays in power despite massive criticism from the opposition and international and regional organisations.
Despite taking the optimistic view that The Gambia can achieve the highest economic growth rate, as well as the highest standard of living in the world, Jammeh faces an uphill battle in achieving these aims. The Gambia has one of the highest poverty rates in the world, where daily income is around $1 a day per person.
If the country genuinely seeks to escape its current poverty trap, it needs to focus on its strengths. Firstly, it needs to encourage growth in the tourism industry, as the country is frequented by holiday-makers seeking the beauty of the country’s palm-fringed beaches. The tourism industry represents a large source of revenue for the country.
Secondly, Jammeh and the APRC government should focus on encouraging investment. By making their governance practices more transparent, by not muzzling the media and by taking a more moderate stance on human rights, The Gambia has the potential to be a beacon of development in West Africa.
Afrique en ligne. Gambia polls: International observers, independent candidate disagree on Gambia pools (November 28, 2011).
African Elections Database. The Gambia election results (November 28, 2011).
Polity. Gambia’s Jammeh declared winner of criticised poll (November 28, 2011).
Reuters. Media bias helped Gambia’s Jammeh win election: AU (November 27, 2011).
Senagambia news. The Gambia’s darkest hour (November 26, 2011).