MS Risk Blog

Presidential Election in Gambia: President Concedes Defeat After 22 Years in Power

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In a shocking move on Friday, 2 December, the country’s electoral commission announced Gambian President Yahya Jammeh conceded defeat to the opposition, effectively brining a dramatic end to his twenty-two years in power. Security forces were deployed heavily around the capital on Friday amidst growing tensions over whether Jammeh would accept a ballot box defeat.

Jammeh was attempting to win a fifth term in power with his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party. He has been defeated by opposition leader Adama Barrow (51), a previously unknown businessman who was chosen as the opposition flag barer by a group of political parties who have joined forces for the first time and won unprecedented popular support. Early on Friday, results were positive for Barrow as he took the capital Banjul, which was a traditional Jammeh stronghold. According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Barrow won nearly 50 percent of the vote in the capital city’s three constituencies, compared to 43 percent for Jammeh. During the early morning hours, military and police set up checkpoints every few hundred metres on the outskirts of the capital city. The United States has indicated that turnout in Thursday’s election appears to be high and that the vote took place in “generally peaceful conditions.” The IEC meanwhile has hailed the vote as “a very successful election.”

If the concession is confirmed, then Barrow will likely decide to serve a three-year term at the head of a transition reform government. Jammeh’s campaign manager Yankuba Colley has stated that he was not aware of the electoral commission chairman’s statement, adding however that he believed the president would step down if the Gambian people wanted it. Barrow’s camp has confirmed the IEC statement

The presidential election, which was held on Thursday 1 December, was marked by an Internet blackout that sparked condemnation from rights groups and the United States. There were also some claims of voter intimidation. A Senegalese security source also confirmed that The Gambia had closed the borders on Thursday, which is a common occurrence during elections in West Africa. Diplomats have confirmed that no professional international observers were on the ground for the vote, however a small team of African Union (AU) experts monitored events along with Banjul-based US and European delegations that were already present in the country.

Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup and had, until now, survived multiple attempts to remove him from the presidency.