Gambia parliament vote crucial to transition for new leader

Apr 10, 2017, 01:10
Gambia parliament vote crucial to transition for new leader

"The coalition was my party but when things started falling apart with them, everyone has to go to their party", said Yaisa Jawara, who chose the GDC as a protest vote.

As part of his proposed reform, he is setting up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses committed under Mr Jammeh's rule.

There are 53 seats up for grabs in The Gambia's National Assembly, five more than in 2012, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) meanwhile suffered a stunning defeat going from 48 seats to just five overnight.

More than 880,000 Gambians are eligible to vote and polls are open until 5:00pm, with many voters relishing the chance to express varied political opinions after 22 years under Jammeh.

Gambians have been voting for members of their one-chamber parliament in the the first polls since Yahya Jammeh left power after more than 22 years, BBC has reported.

Kemo Bojang, a first-time voter speaking to Al Jazeera by phone, said there is a lot of excitement surrounding this year's election.

Jawara, who led protests previous year and said she had been subjected to torture by the now-defunct National Intelligence Agency, said she was confident about a victory in her constituency, which had been a stronghold of Jammeh's ruling party for the past two decades.

Smaller parties who joined the coalition took 11 more seats, and one independent candidate took a seat.

Lamin Dibba, a senior UDP official, said the vote put the party in a strong position to make major changes in The Gambia.

"It's increased our confidence and I think in the near future it will be very easy for us to form a government", he told AFP by phone. "We will also ensure that the national assembly will give the nation the power to operate rather than the president", referring to Jammeh's frequent use of executive orders to push through laws.

The African Union, the regional bloc Ecowas and the European Union have all sent observers to monitor voters casting their ballots in The Gambia's unique system, where marbles are dropped into coloured metal barrels representing different candidates.

Meanwhile, hopes are high for the imminent lawmakers of the West African nation as the previous parliamentarians were considered mere pawns of Jammeh.

West African troops remain on Gambian soil three months after Jammeh's departure, and will stay until Barrow is satisfied security service reforms have removed rogue elements from its ranks.