ECOWAS boycotts presidential election


The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to boycott the presidential election in The Gambia today.

An ECOWAS mission found incidents of intimidation and unacceptable levels of media control. This has led them to issue a statement saying that they do not believe the preparations and political environment are ‘conducive for the conduct of a free, fair and transparent poll’.

There will be observers from the African Union, European Union and American Embassy.

A total of 796,929 people are eligible to vote in 1,302 polling stations nationwide in this smallest country on the African continent which is 220 miles long and runs along the Gambia river.

Yahya Jammeh, the incumbent president and leader of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) is expected to win the election which is based upon the first past the post system.

President Jammeh, has won three previous elections. In 1996, he took 55.7% of the vote. In 2001 he took 52.96% and in 2006 he won with 67.33% of the total votes cast.

Jammeh has two opponents, United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Ousainou Darboe who will be fighting his fourth presidential election; and independent candidate, Hamat Bah, whose is being backed by four opposition parties (NRP, GPDP, NADD and PDOIS) collectively called “the United Front”; he has fought three presidential elections.

The Gambia has a unique voting system which uses marbles rather than ballot papers. Each candidate has a drum painted in the party colours and with their pictures displayed. Each voter then places their marble in the drum of the candidate of their choice. The marble runs down a tube, into the drum which then hits a bell making a loud noise. The system has been adopted because of the high levels of illiteracy in the country.

The result of the election is expected late on Friday.

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