PRESIDENT Adama Barrow’s National People’s Party (NPP) failed to get the necessary number of seats to command the majority in the National Assembly during last Saturday’s legislative elections, Clare Demba reports from Banjul.
The NPP garnered 18 seats in the poll that saw 251 candidates vie for 53 directly elected seats.
Five members will be appointed by Barrow.
There was a low turnout based on a number of factors: an apparent dissatisfaction of the voters with Barrow’s government for not doing much to address their plight in the wake of the rising costs of basic commodities; while others were not willing to vote during the Muslim month of Ramadan and the Christian season of Lent.
One voter told Africa Briefing that this should send a signal to the Independent Electoral Council to adjust its electoral calendar to avoid repeating the same mistake.
Even though veteran politician Halifa Sallah, speaking to reporters after voting, urged Gambians who cared about their country to go out and vote, they did not heed his call.
He said Gambians should be in control of their destiny, adding that the National Assembly was not only a legislature but also an instrument of oversight of all the agencies of government.
There were a lot of twists and turns during these elections: there were clashes among political parties; Barrow campaigning vigorously for NPP candidates during his Meet the People Tour; the rise in the number of independent candidates; the NPP losing in all the constituencies in Banjul; and five candidates backed by former President Yahya Jammeh winning seats.
The result for the NPP was disappointing, given that Barrow swept to power with 53 per cent of the vote in last December’s presidential election.
The NPP losing ground in key areas, notably in Banjul, sent shockwaves across the country because it was the first time a ruling party had lost all the seats in the capital since 1982.
The NPP’s coalition partners, the National Reconciliation Party, and Alliance for Patriotism Reconciliation and Construction, secured four and two seats respectively.
The main opposition United Democratic Party, which held 22 seats in the last legislature, has now been reduced to 15; the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) won two seats, down from four in 2017; and 12 independent candidates won in their respective constituencies.
The Gambia Democratic Congress, which was the third most powerful party five years ago with five seats, does not have a single seat this time, while the leader of the Gambia Moral Congress, Mai Fatty, failed in his bid to win a seat in the National Assembly.
Female representation was still low, even though this is supposed to be an era of equality and equity in Gambian politics.
A record number of 19 women were approved by the IEC to run this race but in the end, only three were elected.
For Gambian women, this clearly demonstrates that a deliberate policy of positive discrimination will be the only way to bring hope to gender parity in the context of elections.