Gambia’s opposition parties unite to unseat Yahya Jammeh
On December 1st, Gambians will decide who rules their country for the next five years. Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s self proclaimed life president and leader of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party, faces stiff opposition from a coalition force of seven political parties in their most consequential elections in the past 51 years.
Jammeh will be challenged by two opposition candidates in the general elections, former presidential candidate for the United Democratic Party (UDP), Adama Barrow, whose candidacy is backed by seven political parties under the opposition coalition, and Mamma Kandeh, leader of Gambia’s Democratic Congress (GDC).
Mamma Kandeh’s refusal to join the opposition coalition is attributed to a lack of transparency in the selection of the opposition’s flag bearer, Adama Barrow.
Barrow leads the coalition of seven political parties as presidential candidate to unseat incumbent, President Jammeh, who describes the opposition as “opportunistic people supported by the west.” Despite attacks on them, the coalition is leading an intensifying campaign across the country as parties near the end of a bruising campaign schedule.
The electoral system in Gambia is the “first past the post system,” in which a candidate who gets a simple majority of the votes wins the election. 886,578 voters are eligible to vote in 1,422 polling stations, nationwide recording an increase in polling units from the 2011 general elections which had 1,301.
Who is expected to win?
President Jammeh is the most unpopular of the presidential candidates, he is faced with a fierce and resilient political environment this election season compared to past presidential campaigns. His supporters have openly rallied and defected to opposition parties, while protests from Gambians have become popular in the city as more citizens are calling on Jammeh to arrest or use violence on them rather than maintain the culture of silence.
Despite the growing discontent with Jammeh, supporters in Banjul flooded the streets to express their loyalty and support on his campaign trail. A huge crowd welcomed and escorted him to different regions as he campaigned and promised more developmental efforts in Gambia.
Adama Barrow criticized Jammeh on his record of human rights abuses, retaining poor governance and failing to build a progressive and developed Gambia. Barrow promises a new Gambia without fear and prolonged detention among other vices reminiscent of a Jammeh presidency, he also promised to reduce the powers of the presidency and will ensure that civil servants have job security and protection.
GDC’s Mamma Kandeh has called on Gambians not to sell their votes. He told a mass political rally in Bansang central river region as his campaign criss-crossed the country canvassing for votes, “Don’t sell your votes, they are your quality education, quality health service, quality agriculture and more importantly your future.” The former supporter of Jammeh’s regime and member of the national assembly promised Gambians that a GDC government will be an inclusive one based on team work and a willingness to involve others in decision making.
The opposition is projected to have a slim chance of unseating President Jammeh despite massive support. Nevertheless, the election is still expected to be competitive based on the widespread belief that many Gambian “silent voters” who have suffered repression under the Jammeh regime, and the majority of unemployed citizens, will not vote for him but this still remains uncertain.