2016 Gambian presidential election

Presidential elections were held in The Gambia on 1 December 2016.[1] In a surprise result, opposition candidate Adama Barrow defeated long-term incumbent Yahya Jammeh.[2][3] The election marked the first change of presidency in The Gambia since a military coup in 1994, and the first transfer of power by popular election since independence from the United Kingdom in 1965.[2]

2016 Gambian presidential election

← 2011 1 December 2016 2021 →
Profil president MAMMA KANDEH.jpg
Nominee Adama Barrow Yahya Jammeh Mama Kandeh
Party Coalition 2016 APRC GDC
Popular vote 227,708 208,487 89,768
Percentage 43.29% 39.64% 17.07%

President before election

Yahya Jammeh

Elected President

Adama Barrow
Coalition 2016

On 2 December, before the final results were announced, Jammeh graciously conceded defeat, shocking a populace that had expected him to retain power. BBC News called it "one of the biggest election upsets West Africa has ever seen".[4] The final official results showed Barrow winning a 43.3% plurality, achieving a 3.7% margin of victory over Jammeh's 39.6%—with a third candidate, Mama Kandeh, receiving 17.1% of the votes. Following the election, 19 opposition prisoners were released, including Ousainou Darboe, the leader of Barrow's United Democratic Party (UDP). There was widespread celebration of the result by the opposition, along with some caution over whether the transition would proceed without incident.

Initially, Jammeh conceded and congratulated Barrow. However, on 9 December Jammeh announced that he was rejecting the results and called for a new election, sparking a constitutional crisis. Troops were deployed in Banjul, the capital city, and Serekunda, the country's largest city. Jammeh's rejection of the results was condemned by several internal and external bodies, including the Gambia bar association, the Gambia teachers' union, the Gambia Press Union, the University of the Gambia, the Gambia medical association, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The situation further escalated on 19 January, when Jammeh's term expired and Barrow was sworn in as president on Gambian soil at the embassy in Senegal. Despite extensive diplomatic efforts that included the personal involvement of several African heads of state, an ECOWAS military intervention took place.

Finally, on 21 January, Jammeh left the Gambia for an ECOWAS-arranged exile, allowing the transition of power to take place.[5] According to the Senegalese government and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, during the dispute around 45,000 people fled to Senegal and at least another 800 people fled to Guinea-Bissau.[6]

Background edit

The incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, took power in a military coup in 1994 and remained the President through elections held in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. The coup led by Jammeh unseated Dawda Jawara, who had led The Gambia since independence in 1965. The 22 years of Jammeh's presidency were characterised by suppression of dissent, restrictions of freedom of the press, and many allegations of human rights violations.[3][7] Jammeh also claimed to have cured various diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer with herbs, cracked down on sorcery in the nation, and prosecuted acts of homosexuality.[3][8] In 2011, he said that, God willing, he could "rule for a billion years".[2][3][7][9]

Electoral system edit

The President of the Gambia is elected in one round by plurality vote for a five-year term.[10]

Instead of using paper ballots, elections in the Gambia are conducted using marbles. Each voter receives a marble and places it in a tube on top of a sealed drum that corresponds to that voter's favoured candidate. The drums for different candidates are painted in different colours corresponding to the party affiliation of the candidate, and a picture of the candidate is affixed to their corresponding drum. The system has the advantages of low cost and simplicity, both for understanding how to vote and for counting the results. The method is reported to have an extremely low error rate for miscast ballots.[11]

Candidates and campaigns edit

The Independent Electoral Commission registered three political organisations and accepted their nominations for candidates:[12]

A Coalition of seven recognised opposition parties managed to unite and endorse Barrow as their preferred candidate, overcoming the fragmentation that could otherwise have led to Jammeh prevailing through the plurality voting system.[4][13] The coalition included the United Democratic Party (UDP), the People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), the National Convention Party (NCP), the People's Progressive Party (PPP), and the Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP).[14] Barrow had been a member of the UDP and had previously served as its treasurer. To allow him to run as an independent candidate endorsed by the coalition rather than as a representative of the UDP, Barrow officially resigned from membership in the UDP prior to the election.[15][16]

Two other political parties—the National Democratic Action Movement (NDAM) and the Gambia Democratic Party (GDP)—had been considered for recognition in the election, but were disqualified by the commission under the rules established for the election, which included residency requirements for the party officials, the establishment of offices in the seven administrative regions of The Gambia, and the submission of audited accounting records.[17] The leader of the NDAM, Lamin Waa Juwara, also encouraged the formation of a coalition to unseat Jammeh.[18]

The two-week period of the official election campaigns was peaceful, and it included many large rallies by both Jammeh's supporters and opposition parties.[19] However, before the election, concerns had been raised about the government cracking down on the political opposition and using state resources and its domination of mass media to influence the outcome.[19] President Jammeh had said that protests after the election would not be tolerated, saying "In this country we don't allow demonstrations."[19] Mobile messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Viber were blocked by Gambian authorities in the period before the election, and during the election, internet access and international phone calls were also blocked.[19][20] International observers from the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States were banned from monitoring the election, but a few observers from the African Union were allowed access.[2]

Adama Barrow, a real estate businessman who had not previously held any political office, said that, if elected, he would set up a temporary transition government formed of members from the opposition coalition and would step down from the presidency within three years.[2][21]

Barrow referred to Jammeh as a "soulless dictator", and said that if elected, he would reverse some of Jammeh's key actions, including Jammeh's decisions for The Gambia to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Nations and from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.[2][7] He also said he would establish a two-term limit for the office of the presidency and conduct judicial reform, emphasising an independent judiciary.[22] Barrow said he wanted to "put aside all party, tribal, religious, gender and other differences" to "unify a divided nation" and "promote and consolidate Democracy, Rule of Law, Good Governance and respect for the Human Rights of our people".[16]

The only recognised opposition party not in the coalition, the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), fielded its own candidate—Mama Kandeh, a former deputy of the APRC ruling party who had been expelled by the APRC.[13] The GDC was The Gambia's youngest political party.[23] It was formed in the summer of 2016 by Kandeh along with some other former key members and supporters of the APRC.[23] It had gained some popular support and was involved in some of the early discussions that led to the formation of the coalition, but the negotiations broke down about its position in the alliance and the attitude of some members of the other parties toward the GDC, so it did not join.[23] Some members of other opposition groups accused the GDC and its backers of trying to divide the opposition voting constituency so that Jammeh would win.[23]

Results edit

Jammeh conceded to Barrow on 2 December before the results were released.[2] Jammeh called and congratulated Barrow on his victory, saying "you are elected president of The Gambia, and I wish you all the best", and adding "I have no ill will."[3] He also proposed to arrange to meet with Barrow toward organising the transition process for his new presidency.[2] On state television he said he would "take the backseat" and not contest the results, further saying "I will help him work towards the transition."[4] BBC News said the outcome was a "huge surprise", as most had expected Jammeh would do whatever was necessary to retain power.[2]

After the election commission released ballot results on 2 December,[2] it reported modified results on 5 December, saying there had been an error in the counting. The modified results showed a smaller lead for Barrow (reducing the margin of victory from 8.8% to 3.7%) and a 9.1% lower number of total votes cast.[24]

Adama BarrowCoalition 2016227,70843.29
Yahya JammehAlliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction208,48739.64
Mama KandehGambia Democratic Congress89,76817.07
Valid votes525,96399.97
Invalid/blank votes1650.03
Total votes526,128100.00
Registered voters/turnout886,57859.34
Source: IEC

By constituency edit

Constituency Adama Barrow
Coalition 2016
Yahya Jammeh
Mama Kandeh
Votes % Votes % Votes %
Banjul 6,639 50 5,704 42 1,028 8
Kanifing 56,107 50 44,873 40 11,127 10
West Coast 74,823 43 76,880 44 21,656 13
North Bank 23,346 37 18,316 29 22,039 34
Lower River 16,476 56 7,996 27 5,048 17
Central River 22,215 32 30,228 43 17,581 25
Upper River 28,102 44 24,490 38 11,289 18
Source: IEC

Aftermath edit

Following the announcement of the results of the elections, opposition supporters widely celebrated the surprise victory and were stunned by Jammeh's concession of defeat.[8] Thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Banjul, the capital city.[22] However, some expressed caution about what Jammeh might do next—suggesting that he could still try to retain power despite what had happened. A businessman said, "I will only believe it when I see him leaving state house. He still controls the army, and his family are the top brass."[8]

The fear that Jammeh would try to cling to power proved well-founded when, on 9 December, Jammeh appeared on Gambian state television and said he had "decided to reject the outcome of the recent election" due to "serious and unacceptable abnormalities ... during the electoral process". He declared that a new election must be held under "a god-fearing and independent electoral commission" and refused to leave office.[25] Despite extensive diplomatic efforts that included several African heads of state, the situation further escalated until there was a military intervention by armed forces from several nearby ECOWAS countries that forced Jammeh to leave. On 21 January 2017, Jammeh finally left the Gambia for an ECOWAS-arranged exile—initially in Guinea.[5]

References edit

  1. ^ "Global elections calendar". National Democratic Institute. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Gambia's Jammeh loses presidential election to Adama Barrow in shock election result". BBC News. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e Corey-Boulet, Robbie; John, Abdoulie (3 December 2016). "Gambia leader's hold on power ends with surprising speed". Yahoo News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 4 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Gambia's Adama Barrow says shock win heralds 'new hope'". BBC News. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b BBC News (21 January 2016). "Ex-President Yahya Jammeh leaves The Gambia after losing election". BBC News. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  6. ^ Baloch, Babar (20 January 2017). "Senegal: Around 45,000 have fled political uncertainty in The Gambia". Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Keating, Joshua (2 December 2016). "Finally, a Victory for Democracy in 2016". Slate. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Farge, Emma (3 December 2016). "Surprise winner of Gambia poll eyes new cabinet, reforms". Reuters. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Jammeh announces cure for breast cancer, others". The Point. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  10. ^ "IFES ElectionGuide: Nov. 24, 2011 Republic of The Gambia Election for President". International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Gambia election: Voters use marbles to choose president". BBC News. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Candidate List". Independent Electoral Commission of The Gambia. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  13. ^ a b Petesch, Carley (1 December 2016). "Gambia ruler predicts landslide; internet blocked amid vote". The Republic. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Gambia 2016: Police Calls For Calm Ahead of Voting". JollofNews. 26 April 2016. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  15. ^ "Resignation of Mr. Adama Barrow as Member of United Democratic Party (UDP)". Independent Electoral Commission of The Gambia. 7 November 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  16. ^ a b Barrow, Adama (25 November 2016). "Gambia 2016: Adama Barrow: My Vision And Mission". JollofNews. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Two Dormant Opposition Parties Struck Off in Gambia". JollofNews. 30 November 2016. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  18. ^ "Gambia: Breaking News: A Coalition Of Gambian Opposition Parties To Unseat Jammeh From Power To Be Announced Today At A News Conference!". Freedom Newspaper. 29 March 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  19. ^ a b c d "Gambia: Free Speech Ban Threatens Rights in Vote Aftermath". Human Rights Watch. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  20. ^ Maclean, Ruth; Graham-Harrison, Emma (1 December 2016). "The Gambia bans international calls and internet as voters go to polls". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  21. ^ McAllister, Edward; Bavier, Joe (2 December 2016). "'No drama Adama' Barrow seeks to end Gambia's erratic Jammeh era". Yahoo News. Reuters. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  22. ^ a b Chantzaras, Dimitras (6 December 2016). "Gambia president-elect Adama Barrow talks to Al Jazeera". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d Phatey, Sam (17 October 2016). "Is the GDC being pilloried by other opposition groups, surrogates?". SMBC News. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  24. ^ "The Total of Final Election Results". Independent Electoral Commission of The Gambia. 5 December 2016. Archived from the original on 7 December 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  25. ^ "Gambian president Yahya Jammeh rejects election result". The Guardian. Reuters. 9 December 2016. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 December 2016.