Gambia: ECOWAS observers say legislative election ‘transparent’

The regional bloc has urged Gambian authorities to jointly hold legislative and presidential elections together next time


Officials of Gambian Independent Electoral Commission make preparations with police escort ahead of parliamentary elections on April 04, 2017 in Serekunda, Gambia. Gambians will vote for parliament on 6th of April 2017. ( Yusupha Sama – Anadolu Agency )

The observers of the regional economic bloc, ECOWAS, have rated Gambia’s recent legislative elections which gave new president Adama Barrow an overwhelming majority as “transparent”.

“In the polling units visited, polls closed at the stipulated time of 5 p.m. The vote counting and tallying processes were carried out in a transparent and professional manner, in full view of party agents, observers, and security agents. More importantly, the cooperation between the electoral officials and party agents was impressive,” ECOWAS said in its preliminary findings.

The coalition of Gambia civil society organisations have also described the polls as transparent despite few incidents.

Gambians went to polls on Thursday and four of the seven political parties backing Barrow have won 42 out of 53 seats in the country’s National Assembly.

The election which attracted a low turnout was the small West African nation’s first polls since the fall of its strongman Yahya Jammeh on their 2016 Dec. 1 presidential elections.

The regional bloc has also urged the local authorities to consider holding both legislative and presidential elections on a single day to avoid mass voter apathy.

ECOWAS also recommends mass voter education by political parties ahead of polls, adding that despite “smooth conduct of the exercise, the mission however observed a relatively lower turnout”

“Furthermore, it may be expedient in the future to consider holding both legislative and presidential elections on the same day in order to minimize the cost of organizing elections and addressing the issue of low voter turnout…,” regional bloc said.

“In the light of the low voter turnout observed in the field, the ECOWAS EOM recommends that ahead of future elections, the IEC and political parties should put more efforts to educate and sensitize the citizens on the importance of active participation in all national elections.”

Barrow’s party from where he resigned to contest as an independent presidential candidate, the United Democratic Party, has won 31 seats, while other 3 parties within the coalition won a total of 11 seats, giving them 42 seats in total.

Former president Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party has won 5 seats all in his native region of Foni in the Western Region of Gambia.

While the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress party won 5 seats, leaving 1 seats to independent candidates.

The results shows a sharp decline in the popularity of the APRC from being the majority in the National Assembly to one of the minorities.

Other observers like the European Union and the African Union are both releasing their findings tomorrow.

A Gambian political commentator, Sidi Sanneh, said the polls results have shown that country’s “transition to democratic rule is on track despite having suffered 22 years of brutal dictatorship”.


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