Originally part of the Mali empire, the area now known as The Gambia was dominated by trans-Saharan trade. By the end of the 16th Century the empire had collapsed and the Portuguese conquered the area. In 1588 they sold the area surrounding the Gambia river to British merchants.
During the 17th and 18th Centuries the area was fought over by the French and British and it was only in 1889 that an agreement led to the current boundaries. The area became a British Crown Colony.
From the early 1900s The Gambia took on more and more of its own governance, but it was only on 18th February 1965 that it gained full independence. On 24th April 1970 The Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth.
The first president of the country was Dawda Jawara a popular figure who was re-elected five times. His People’s Progressive Party (PPP) won the 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987 and 1992 general elections.
An attempted coup by a group of army officers in 1981 failed, but only because the Senegalese Army intervened at the request of President Jawara. It was, however, the turning point and the PPP government was seen as being increasingly corrupt, although not Jawara personally.
In 1994 Yahya Jammeh led a successful coup against President Jawara and for two years headed up the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC). In 1996, following a constitutional referendum, Jammeh was elected as president and went on to win the 2001 and 2006 presidential elections. His Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) won the 1997 general election three months later and then went on to win the 2002 and 2007 general elections.
The President is elected for a five-year term with no term limits.
Elections are to a unicameral National Assembly with 53 seats. Of these, 48 are elected for a five year term and five are appointed by the President. Elections are by direct popular vote using the ‘first past the post’ system in single member constituencies.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places The Gambia at joint 145th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 26 (where 100 is least corrupt).