Gambians are casting their ballots to elect their subsequent president, in a highly anticipated vote seen as a take a look at of the nation’s democratic transition.
President Adama Barrow faces a report 5 different candidates as he seeks re-election in what is predicted to be a close race. Political veteran Ousainou Darboe is seen as the primary opposition candidate.
Saturday’s vote is the primary since longtime autocratic ruler Yahya Jammeh was pressured into exile in January 2017 after Barrow, comparatively unknown on the time, defeated him on the poll field. His departure to Equatorial Guinea ended a 22-year rule marked by a litany of alleged crimes, abuses and monetary plunder.
As voting started at 08:00 GMT, folks had already fashioned lengthy queues outdoors polling stations. Polls are set to shut at 17:00 GMT, and preliminary ends in the one-round election might be introduced as early as Sunday.
“A whole lot of individuals queued up and waited for the polls to open,” stated Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from a voting centre within the capital, Banjul, noting that the “huge turnout” was “no shock”.
“That is the primary election in a few years the place a voter can go and forged their poll with out having to fret about being noticed, intimidated or arrested after voting,” he added.
The Gambia, a sliver of land about 480km (300 miles) lengthy with a shoreline of about 60km (37 miles) on the Atlantic Ocean, is surrounded by Senegal. It’s residence to greater than two million folks, about half of whom reside on lower than $1.90 per day.
Many citizens are hoping for an enchancment of their dwelling requirements after the tourism-dependent economic system was dealt a extreme blow by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Individuals are actually having fun with higher freedom. Individuals have seen the worth of elections as a way to peace. Gambians are peace-loving they usually see elections as a peaceable means to elect their leaders.” Sait Matty Jaw, a lecturer at College of The Gambia, advised Al Jazeera.
“The campaigns have been very peaceable. Individuals are not scared to point out the place they belong,” Jaw added.
President Barrow is operating on a continuity ticket, pointing to infrastructure initiatives accomplished below his watch, in addition to elevated civil liberties.
Dropping marbles into drums
Almost a million folks out of a 2.5 million inhabitants are registered to vote, a quantity that’s greater than the 2016 election, in line with Mamadou A. Barry, a returning officer on the Unbiased Electoral Fee (IEC).
Every presidential candidate has their very own poll field at Gambian polls, and voters select their most popular politician by dropping a marble inside one of many containers.
Barry stated Gambians understood the method of utilizing glass marbles to vote. The weird voting methodology was launched within the Sixties to keep away from spoilt ballots in a nation with a excessive illiteracy fee.
“Every voter will get a marble,” he stated. “I believe it’s clear and truthful.”
Whereas Jammeh is not going to have his personal poll field this time, questions over his persevering with position in politics – and his potential return from exile – have been central themes within the run-up to the election.
The 56 yr previous, who had seized energy in a 1994 coup, retains important political help in The Gambia and has sought to affect the vote.
In a string of speeches by phone, Jammeh has urged crowds of rapt listeners to not vote for Barrow however again a coalition run by opposition candidate Mama Kandeh, who got here third in 2016.
One other political camp, nevertheless, is pushing for prison fees in opposition to Jammeh for alleged abuses dedicated below his rule.
Barrow arrange a reality fee to probe the alleged abuses after coming to workplace.
The panel heard testimony from a whole bunch of witnesses about state-sanctioned loss of life squads, “witch hunts” and forcing bogus cures on AIDS sufferers, amongst different abuses.
In November, the fee recommended the federal government pursue prison fees, in a remaining report that it handed to Barrow with out releasing it to the general public.
The names of the officers in opposition to whom fees had been really helpful had been additionally not launched.
Felony fees are politically delicate given Jammeh’s following, nevertheless.
There are additionally rising considerations about Barrow’s enthusiasm for prosecutions, regardless of earlier rhetoric that was robust on Jammeh.
In September, Barrow’s NPP get together introduced a pact with Jammeh’s previous get together, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Building, in a controversial transfer that was seen as an electoral ploy.
Jammeh stated that call was taken with out his data, and his supporters have fashioned a rival get together. However rights teams worry the pact will diminish the probabilities of a trial.