Gambia’s President Barrow takes slim, early lead as vote-tallies continue


Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, flanked by his wives, speaks to the media after voting during the presidential election, in Banjul, Gambia, December 4, 2021. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

December 5, 2021

By Pap Saine and Bate Felix

BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia’s incumbent President Adama Barrow has a narrow early lead after Saturday’s presidential election, according to provisional results from the first constituency to be verified by the electoral commission.

In a test of stability and democratic progress, the small West African country is holding its first election since former President Yahya Jammeh was voted out of office in 2016, ending 22 years of autocratic rule.

Barrow, a 56-year-old former security guard and property developer, ran against five rivals including his former political mentor, Ousainou Darboe, 73, who was seen as the main challenger.

Preliminary results from the first of 53 constituencies showed Barrow in the lead with 657 votes vs. Darboe’s 454, the election commission’s chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai, told reporters late on Saturday.

Provisional results are expected by Sunday under a simple majority system with numbers from individual constituencies announced throughout the night.

Gambia uses a unique voting system – marbles dropped into each candidate’s ballot drum – to avoid spoilt ballots in a nation with a high illiteracy rate.

Jammeh, who was defeated by an opposition coalition that backed current President Barrow, fled to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after refusing to accept defeat.

Earlier on Saturday, Barrow cast his vote in Banjul and said he was confident of victory.

“I’m happy to see a large turnout from Gambian voters,” he said, accompanied by his two wives.

Nearly 1 million people from a population of 2.5 million are registered to vote in Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country.

“I want to see a better Gambia, a far better Gambia than the previous years,” said civil servant Bubacarr Kanteh, 39, outside a polling station.

Other candidates include Essa Mbye Faal, who served as chief counsel of Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that chronicled the abuses of Jammeh’s rule, and Mama Kandeh, who came third in 2016 and is backed by Jammeh.

As campaigning wrapped up on Thursday, hundreds of jubilant Barrow supporters gathered in downtown Banjul for a final rally, hoping another Barrow term would secure stability as Gambia seeks to put Jammeh’s rule behind it.

Critics, however, say Barrow has broken his promises, pointing to how he backtracked on a pledge to serve only three years after winning in 2016. Barrow has argued the constitution requires him to serve out a full five-year term.

(Reporting by Pap Saine and Bate Felix; Writing by Bate Felix and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by David Clarke, Christina Fincher and Jonathan Oatis)

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