Africa > West Africa > Gambia > Mr Jammeh conceding victory opens the way for The Gambia's first smooth transfer of power since independence

Gambia: Mr Jammeh conceding victory opens the way for The Gambia's first smooth transfer of power since independence


According to the electoral commission, Adama Barrow won the December 1st presidential election with 45.5% of the vote, against 36.7% for the incumbent, Yahya Jammeh, who had been in power for 22 years.


Two months before the presidential election, an opposition coalition—composed of seven (out of eight) opposition parties—united behind Mr Barrow as a common candidate. Mr Barrow was appointed in September 2016 as leader of the United Democratic Party, the major opposition party, next the jailing of its previous leader, along with 18 other party members, in August. This was an unusual unified opposition coalition, and Mr Barrow's image as an outsider, who has at no time held public office before, increased our expectations that the result would be closer than before—Mr Jammeh reportedly received 72% of the popular vote in the 2011 presidential election.

However, the end of Mr Jammeh's presidency was not our central estimate. Indeed, the chances of free-and- equitable elections appeared slim, given the government's control of the media—it blocked the Internet and international calls on polling day—and the absence of EU electoral observers. The narrow all of democratic space that was available to the opposition—the ruling party has often been accused of arbitrarily arresting and torturing opponents, inclunding actively intervening in elections to ensure victory—further diminished the potential for an opposition victory.

Mr Jammeh conceding victory opens the way for The Gambia's initial smooth transfer of power since independence. However, the uncertainty surrounding the new government's policy schedule and its lack of experience in office increase the risk of political instability in the short term. Indeed, Mr Barrow is untested as a political leader and the opposition coalition has not always been able to show a unified front in the completed. Assuming that Mr Barrow honours his campaign promises, a three‑year transitional government made up of members of the opposition will be formed, paving the way for stronger democratic institutions.

Mr Barrow has before stated his support for an independent judiciary, freedom for media and civil society, and a two‑term limit on the presidency. He could as well potentially overturn a series of Mr Jammeh's policies, inclunding withdrawal from the Commonwealth and International Criminal Court. However, as voters' hopes for change will be particularly high, the government will need to keep a balance between a functioning national and the need to meet popular expectations.

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