The Gambia’s longtime opposition won an absolute majority in parliamentary elections, easily defeating the party of ousted leader Yahya Jammeh, results announced on April 7 showed.
Official results announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) showed the United Democratic Party (UDP) won 31 of the 53 available elected seats in the country’s National Assembly, according to AFP.
“[I] hereby declare the final results as follows: UDP won 31 seats; APRC [Jammeh’s party won five seats,” IEC chairman Alieu Momar Njie declared at the commission headquarters.
Five more seats are appointed by the president to give a total 58 seats in the chamber, giving the UDP a two-seat majority.
Turnout was low at 42 percent, Njie said, saying more civic education was needed to persuade people to come out and vote in legislative polls.
The UDP was one of seven parties who united to propel President Adama Barrow to power in December last year, but that coalition broke apart for the legislative election.
The party has long considered itself a government-in-waiting, and Barrow was UDP treasurer until resigning to become the flag bearer candidate for the coalition.
Their victory is likely to make it easier for Barrow to get a raft of promised reforms passed, with UDP leader Ousainou Darboe a personal friend and longtime ally of the president.
Lamin Dibba, a senior UDP official, said the vote put the party in a strong position to make major changes in The Gambia.
“It’s increased our confidence and I think in the near future it will be very easy for us to form a government,” he told AFP by phone.
“Our first priority will be to look at the constitution, he said. “We will also ensure that the national assembly will give the nation the power to operate rather than the president,” referring to Jammeh’s frequent use of executive orders to push through laws.
Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) meanwhile suffered a stunning reversal, going from 48 seats to just five overnight - a result that revealed the deep anger felt by former supporters and critics alike at the actions of the regime.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry on April 7 said they were pleased that the parliamentary elections in Gambia were held fairly and freely.
“We welcome the fact that the elections that took place in The Gambia on Thursday April 6, 2017 were conducted in a fair and independent manner. We congratulate all political parties which took part in the elections,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.