Sat. May 28th, 2022

One million voters were registered in the election, which is seen as a key test for stability for the small West African country.

The ballot box closed in Gambia after citizens cast their ballots for president in a tough race that is seen as a test of democratic progress.

It was the West African country’s first democratic election since former president Yahya Jammeh was removed from office in 2016.

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

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

Barrow, a 56-year-old former security guard and real estate developer, cast his vote in Banjul, accompanied by his two wives.

“I am pleased to see a large turnout of Gambian voters,” he said afterwards, adding he was confident of a victory.

Results are expected by Sunday under the simple majority system, but preliminary figures will start filtering late Saturday.

Barrow faces five opponents, including his former political mentor, Ousainou Darboe, 73, who is considered his main challenger.

There were no reports of disruption of the mood and Darbue called on his supporters in the tourism-dependent country to remain calm.

“Remember, we are in the tourism season, the slightest disturbance in this country will drive away all the tourists,” he said.

Smallest continental African nation

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

Before the ballot box opened, officials carried the ballot boxes outside to show the queues of voters that they were empty.

Other candidates include Essa Mbye Faal, who served as chief advocate of The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Repairs Commission, which described the abuses of Jammeh’s rule, and Mama Kandeh, who came third in 2016 and is supported by Jammeh.

As the campaign concluded on Thursday, hundreds of cheering Barrow supporters gathered in downtown Banjul for a final rally, hoping another Barrow term would ensure stability as Gambia seeks 22 years of Jammeh rule behind to put the back.

Critics, however, said Barrow broke his promises, pointing out how he retreated on a promise to serve only three years after winning in 2016. Barrow argued the constitution required him to serve a full five-year term.

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