On Saturday, December 4, the people of Gambia will go to the polls to elect their president.
In the election, Gambian President Adama Barrow will face five challengers in the first voting exercise since the exiled former leader Yahya Jammeh fled the country after refusing to accept defeat five years ago.
Last month, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the country’s electoral umpire, announced that 15 presidential candidates were rejected while another six others, including Mr Barrow, were nominated.
Makan Khan, spokesperson for the IEC, said that most of the rejected applications did not meet the constitutional requirements, with the most common problem being voters’ failure to comply with the sponsorship requirement.
Article 47 of the electoral code stipulates that each candidate must submit a sponsorship list made up of at least 200 registered voters in each constituency but Mr Khan said eight of the rejected applications were submitted by independent candidates.
Apart from the incumbent president Adama Barrow from the National People’s Party (NPP), other candidates in Saturday’s election are Ousainou Darboe from the United Democratic Party (UDP), Mama Kandeh from the Gambia Democratic Congress, and Halifa Sallah from the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS).
Others are Essa Mbaye Faal and Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh.
The electoral contest is expected to be peaceful, according to polls and media reports, although there are concerns about the image of the ousted president Yahya Jammeh looming large over the elections.
PREMIUM TIMES presents the candidates and how they stand:
Mr Barrow’s fate at the polls will be determined by the peoples’ verdict on his success or otherwise in dragging the country out of the Yahya Jammeh era. Mr Jammeh’s era was characterised by crackdowns on political opponents, fear, widespread corruption, extra-judicial executions, detentions without trial, and media harassment.
Media reports said human rights has improved enormously under Mr Barrow, but as the incumbent president, he has so much to defend in terms of his leadership records. There have been concerns over rise in crime and poor electricity and internet networks in the country.
Mr Barrow’s most significant worry, according to many political pundits, is in the area of trust: he initially said he would only serve as a transitional leader for three years but he can now run for as long as he likes.
Last year, a bill to limit presidents to two terms failed to pass.
Again, Mr Barrow recently signed a controversial electoral pact with the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, the party formed by Yahya Jammeh in 1996. Many have expressed fears that the pact may ease the return of Mr Jammeh. Others have said that it might as well undermine the work of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission established in 2018 to investigate human rights violations under the Jammeh presidency.
Despite all of these issues, 56-year-old Mr Barrow is still widely considered the shoo-in.
Seven-three-year-old Mr Darboe was widely considered the face of opposition politics in Gambia. As leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), the country’s largest opposition political force, he was a thorn in the flesh of the Jammeh government for decades.
He was however detained by the Jammeh government after a death was recorded in a protest. He eventually was sentenced to three years in prison.
When Mr Barrow was sworn in as president after the exit of Mr Jammeh, Mr Darboe served as foreign minister and one of the three vice presidents in the Barrow government.
Things fell apart between both men in March 2019 and he was sacked.
In Saturday’s election, aside the incumbent, he is widely considered the strongest contender for the presidential seat. He is also the oldest candidate seeking for votes in a country with significant youthful voting population.
Mama Kandeh is the leader of Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC). He recently signed a controversial MoU with supporters of ex-president Yahya Jammeh.
Amid criticism, he said in October that the MoU does not include an amnesty for Mr Jammeh.
Mr. Kandeh has equally had to refute allegations that he was put up by former President Jammeh. In 2016, Mr Kandeh came third in the presidential polls.
He was a former APRC stalwart until his expulsion and eventual formation of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC). He is expected to put up a good run.
Halifa Sallah is a Gambian opposition leader and candidate of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS). He is also one of the main figures in the opposition coalition National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD).
Earlier in June 2005, along with the other 3 opposition MPs, Mr Sallah was expelled from the National Assembly on the grounds of dual party membership. NADD had been registered as a political party and the Supreme Court of The Gambia judged that it went against the Gambian Constitution to belong to two parties at the same time. Consequently, a by-election was held and Sallah was reelected.
As a respected opposition voice, Mr Sallah is also in the race for the presidential seat.
Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh
He is a former director general of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority and leader of the National Unity Party in Gambia. He attracts very few supporters and isn’t seen as much of a threat.
Essa Mbaye Faal
Essa Mbye Faal recently resigned his position as the lead prosecutor of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission to contest as an independent candidate. He is an international lawyer who until recently was the chief prosecutor of the TRRC.
Like Ebrima Jammeh, political pundits have said that Mr Faal isn’t expected to pose any serious threat to the leading contenders on Saturday.
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