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Gambians head to the polls tomorrow

Nov 23, 2011, 12:34 PM

A total number of 796,929 (Seven Hundred and Ninety Six Thousand, Nine Hundred and Twenty-nine) registered Gambian voters will tomorrow go to the polls to elect a President to steer the affairs of this country for the next five years.

Three aspirants namely, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh of the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC), Ousainou Darboe of the main opposition United Democratic Party and Hamat NK Bah, an independent candidate standing under the banner of an opposition United Front will be seeking the mandate of Gambians.

Jammeh

President Jammeh, 46, has won three consecutive past elections. In 1996, he polled 220,011 (55.7%); in 2001 he polled 242,302 votes (52.96%); and in 2006 he swept the polls winning 67.33% of the total votes cast.

He has promised that the election would be free and fair.

Jammeh attended Gambia High School in Banjul and passed the GCE ‘O’ Level Exams.

He joined the former Gambia National Gendarmerie Corps in 1984, and was among the national gendarmerie corps incorporated into the Gambia Army in 1991, after the institution was abolished.

He did military training in the USA from September 1993 to January 1994. After leading a coup in July 1994, and few weeks before the 1996 elections, he retired from the army as colonel to join the political race. Since 1996, he has received several awards up to now.

This year’s election, he said, is between progress and retrogression, not between him and the opposition, stressing that those who want progress will vote for him.

Darboe

Ousainou Darboe, 63, will be running for the fourth time as a presidential candidate. Born 8th August 1948, Darboe attended Saint Augustine’s High School and Gambia High School before proceeding to study law in Nigeria, where he obtained his first law degree.

He obtained his Masters degree in law in Ottawa, Canada, and did an attachment at the Ghana Ministry of Justice. In The Gambia, he worked at the Attorney General’s Chambers as state counsel and legal draftsman, from 1973 to 1980.

From 1980 to date he has been a private legal practitioner heading a private law firm. He joined politics in 1996, the year in which he first ran for presidential election, and obtained 141,387 votes (35.84%) and in 2001 he got 149,448 votes (32.67%). In the last presidential election held in September 2006, Darboe, who joined forces with Hamat Bah’s NRP party, polled 104, 808 (26.69%) of the total votes cast.

Darboe has long said his priority is to improve the well-being of the farmers by buying their groundnuts promptly.

Hamat Bah

Hamat Bah, 51, will be seeking the presidency for the third time, but this time around as an independent candidate under the banner of the newly-formed United Front comprising four opposition parties, namely the NRP, GPDP, NADD and PDOIS.

Born in the village of Bantanto Sare Oldi in the Central River Region, Bah, who lost to Jammeh in the 1996 and 2001 presidential elections, first launched his National Reconciliation Party on 9th September 1996, when he started politics.

In the 1996 elections, Bah got 21, 769 (5.52%) of the total votes cast while in the 2001, he scored 35, 671 (7.8%) of the total votes cast.

A trained teacher and hotelier from the Gambia College and Acor Academy in Paris, France, respectively, Bah also holds a diploma in management.

He has also said that part of his priorities if elected will be to address the problem of housing for civil servants, youth employment, utilization of the River Gambia, restoring freedom of the press, open up the wavelength to enable Gambians discuss and debate on issues freely, restore the tourism sector to what it was before, and ensuring food self-sufficiency, among others.

Voting Process

Voting will take place in a total number of 1,302 polling stations. Voters will be using marbles to vote rather than ballot papers, inserting a marble into the drum representing their candidate.

Elections are on the basis of a simple majority, and voting is by secret ballot.

On basis of biometric voters’ cards bearing photos and fingerprint, electors vote in secret, drop their marbles down narrow tubes into the drums of their choice, which strikes a bell inside the drum as it falls.

As the sound is heard clearly outside the booth, this arrangement prevents multiple voting. This tamper-proof system was invented after much experimentation by two British nationals, Smith and Weston.

Each candidate has a separate sealed drum, usually identified by his or her photograph, party initials and symbols.

Candidates are allowed to have their agents at polling stations, and later to witness the transportation and counting of the votes in Banjul and other regional administrative centres.

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