Election officials began counting marble votes in The Gambia on Saturday after voting closed in the country’s first presidential election in decades, which did not include former dictator Yahya Jammeh, in what was seen as a test of democracy in the West African country. was a milestone.
Long lines of Gambians came to vote to exercise their democratic rights as a demand for justice in the post-Jammeh era. About 1 million registered voters were expected to drop marbles into one of six ballots, each containing the face and name of a candidate.
Candidates include incumbent President Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh as an opposition leader in 2016.
Barrow’s rivals are former patron and principal opposition leader of the United Democratic Party, Ousenou Darbo; Uncle Kandeh of the Democratic Congress of The Gambia; Halifa Salla of the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism; Abdulli Ebrima Jammeh of the National Unity Party; and Asa MB Fal, the former chief lawyer of the Truth Commission of The Gambia, who was running as an independent.
“We will never lose this election,” Barrow said after voting in Banjul. “I am a leader who is focused on development, and that development will continue in this country. I know that in the next 24 hours my people will be celebrating on the streets.”
Barrow insisted that the independent election commission should remain impartial.
Due to health problems Darbo voted using walkers in Fajara, a neighborhood of Bakau near the capital. With a huge escort including their wives, they added their voice to the call for peaceful elections.
“If there is a peaceful election, we all win,” he said.
The Independent Election Commission’s presiding officer, Moses Mbey, told The Associated Press that there were no major problems during the voting. IEC President Aliu Momar Naji said the election results would be announced by Monday.
After voting closed, several officials began counting by laying stones on wooden boards to mark 100 to 200 votes per board. Political party representatives and polling station heads also sign the counting. This year, it will also be put into an app developed for election tracking of The Gambia, called Marble.
As all presidential candidates have vowed to bolster the country’s tourism-dependent economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Lesser Gambians feel compelled to travel the dangerous migration route to Europe.
While the 2016 election ousted Jammeh from power after 22 years, while Gambians went from fear to excitement, many are still not satisfied with the nation’s progress.
Keba Gay, 23, said in the city of Velingara, “Ever since President Barrow came to power, food prices have kept rising. The average Gambian lives in poverty, so we want a candidate to be elected to address this problem.” ” “We young people want to choose a leader who will respect and value our votes. A leader who will create jobs for us.”
In a nearby neighborhood, 24-year-old Marietou Bojang agreed on the need for change, saying people don’t have enough to eat.
“I’m voting because I and other women are suffering silently. A bag of rice has gone up a lot,” she told the AP, adding that not enough has been done to fight corruption.
Many Gambians certainly want the new leader to lead the small West African nation of about 24 million to peace and justice.
Jammeh, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, was ousted from office in 2016. After initially agreeing to step down, Jammeh protested, and the six-week crisis saw neighboring West African countries preparing to send troops to a military platform. Interference. Jammeh was forced into exile and fled to Equatorial Guinea.
Jammeh’s two-decade rule was marked by arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances and summary executions that were revealed through dramatic testimony during Truth, Reconciliation and Repair Commission hearings that lasted for years.
Last week, the commission submitted its 17-volume report to Barrow, urging him to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are prosecuted. Barrow said he would do so.
Despite Jammeh breaking away from that party, many Gambians feel betrayed, even after reaching an agreement with top figures in the former ruling party of Barrow’s National People’s Party.
Jammeh’s affiliation is not just an issue for the incumbent president. The opposition candidate Kandeh is supported by a separate political faction that Jammeh had formed during his exile in Equatorial Guinea. While Kandeh has kept quiet about Jammeh’s possible return to the Gambia, his allies are clearly saying that Jammeh will return if he wins the election.
Among other candidates, Salla and Darbo are established politicians, but they faced challenges from newcomers Fal and Ebrima Jammeh, who are making waves in urban areas.