Voting has started in the Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest nation for parliament. It is the first since the ouster of the 22-year longstanding ruler, Yahya Jammeh, who fled to Equatorial Guinea.
The National Assembly under Jammeh was a rubber stamp parliament. His APRC party maintained a majority throughout his dictatorship and unanimously passed any bill from his regime.
After Jammeh lost the presidential elections, the APRC-backed parliament approved a state of emergency to extend Jammeh’s mandate and help him to hold on to power.
Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow will not have an easy pass for any of the bills he sends to parliament. Jammeh ruled mostly through executive orders and presidential decrees.
Jammeh’s APRC has not put up candidates in all districts, the first in 22 years. In the 2012 polls, the APRC won 43 out of 53 seats and Jammeh had five others members nominated including the Speaker of the House to do his bidding.
The EU has deployed observers across the country for the election in which more than 800,000 people are expected to decide. The EU was denied observer status by the Jammeh government during the presidential polls.
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, who won December’s presidential race, was a former UDP treasurer who resigned to run as the candidate of an unprecedented opposition coalition.
Barrow’s cabinet is made up of the heads of seven different political parties, all of which pitched candidates against one another in Thursday’s election after failing to agree on a coalition-led approach or a tactical alliance.