The Gambia’s long-time opposition party won an absolute majority in Thursday’s parliamentary elections, easily defeating the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) of ousted leader Yahya Jammeh, according to the results announced today.
Official results issued by the Independent Electoral Commission showed the United Democratic Party (UDP) had won 31 of the 53 available elected seats in the country’s National Assembly. Gambia Democratic Congress, a youth-led party which did not join the coalition last year, gained just five seats.
Smaller parties who joined the coalition took 11 more seats, and one independent candidate took a seat.
Five more seats are appointed by the President to give a total of 58 seats in the chamber, giving the UDP a two-seat majority.
Jammeh’s APRC suffered a stunning reversal of fortune, going from 48 seats to just five overnight, effectively ending a 22-year era, when the party totally dominated the country’s politics.
The UDP was one of seven parties that united to bring President Adama Barrow to power in December last year, but that coalition broke apart for the legislative election, as each member decided to go it alone.
The party was the main opposition party under the rule of Jammeh, and its leader Ousainou Darboe unsuccessfully ran as a presidential candidate against Jammeh several times.
Darboe, a lawyer, was arrested in April 2016 for participating in protests against the government. He remained in jail during the period leading up to the December 2016 presidential election. And in his absence, Barrow, who was the UDP treasurer, was chosen as the party’s presidential candidate, with Darboe’s endorsement.
The victory of the UDP and allied parties at the parliamentary election should make it easier for Barrow to carry his promised reforms out as Darboe is a personal friend and long-time ally of the president. Darboe is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Gambia.
Barring internal wrangling among the coalition parties, analysts now see no more obstacles in the way of Barrow to offer Gambians a new lease of life as he tackles the challenges facing the country.