Gambian opposition parties reject preliminary election results

Gambian opposition candidates have rejected the preliminary results of Saturday’s historic vote in the West African nation which suggest the incumbent president, Adama Barrow, had easily won re-election.

According to official results announced by the electoral commission, Barrow is leading with a significant margin of more than 200,000 voti. Barrow in 2016 unseated the former president Yahya Jammeh, who is accused of human rights abuses and corruption.

Saturday’s vote is being seen as a key test of stability as it was the first since Jammeh was forced into exile after refusing to concede defeat, and was the first vote in 27 years without him on the ballot.

Barrow’s main opponent, the United Democratic party leader, Ousainou Darboe, has won 200,000 votes so far, compared with Barrow’s 411,000. With three of 53 constituencies left to be announced, di 754,000 votes have been counted so far. The total number of people who registered to vote this year was just over 962,000.

Darboe and two other opposition candidates – Mama Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress, and the independent candidate Essa Faal – told reporters on Sunday evening they were concerned with the “inordinate delay” in the announcement of final results.

They also said their agents and representatives had raised “a number of issues” at polling stations and had not endorsed some results.

Darboe, who was once Barrow’s mentor, ran against Jammeh in three previous elections but was arrested in 2016 and prevented from contesting. Barrow, who had not previously held office, stood in Darboe’s place and later appointed him to his cabinet, only to form a breakaway party in 2019.

Also that year, Barrow reneged on a campaign promise to only serve as a short-term transitional leader for three years, leading to large-scale protests.

Nel mese di settembre, he was criticised for forming a political alliance with Jammeh’s former party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).

More recently, Barrow has come under fire for failing to make public the final report of a truth, reconciliation, and reparations commission investigating human rights abuses under Jammeh’s regime. Critics say that was a calculated move to save him from having to take action on the report’s recommendations, potentially alienating the Jammeh supporters he was courting ahead of the election.

Seedy Njie, a deputy spokesperson for Barrow’s National People’s party (NPP), could not be reached for comment.

Nana-Jo N’dow, the founder of an NGO campaigning against enforced disappearances and summary executions, whose own father was disappeared under Jammeh’s regime in 2013, said the alliance showed “where Barrow’s priorities lie”. She also said his refusal to step down early was an indication that he “was not going to deliver on everything he promised”.

Jammeh himself rejected the alliance with Barrow’s party and instead threw his support behind a coalition led by opposition candidate Kandeh, who is currently in third place according to official figures. Jammeh had spoken by telephone at some of Kandeh’s rallies, dialling in from exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Gambians voted by dropping marbles into coloured drums. Counting began shortly after polls closed at 5pm GMT on Saturday.

Other candidates included Halifa Sallah of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism, who is currently in fourth place, and Abdoulie Jammeh, the former director-general of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, in sixth place.

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