By Mustapha K. Darboe
BANJUL, Gambia (AA) - Gambia on Saturday is holding its first presidential election since the 2016 defeat of strongman Yahya Jammeh, with two main contenders for the top spot.
Incumbent Adama Barrow, seeking a second term, has as his main opponent Ousainu Darboe, who leads Barrow’s former party, the United Democratic Party (UDP). It is expected to be a close race between Barrow and Darboe.
Across the West African country of some 2.4 million, over 962,000 people are registered to vote, according to official figures, with polls closing nationwide at 5 p.m. after opening at 8 a.m.
Other candidates include Ebrima Jammeh of the National Unity Party; independent Essa Mbaye Faal; Halifa Sallah, the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS); and Mamma Kandeh, the Gambia Democratic Congress.
Gambia uses a secret balloting system, and voters must present their voter’s card at the polling station before they can cast their ballot.
Only one voter is allowed to enter the polling booth at a time to vote, using a set of marbles color coded to fit parties and candidates.
The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission promised a hitch-free and transparent election.
He told Anadolu Agency at a polling station in the capital Banjul that they are expecting an impressive turnout. Vote counting will be done “on the spot," said Alieu Momarr Njai.
“By the time we have the results, all parties also know what they got. So the process is very transparent.”
Voter turnout at the election is impressive and the environment is peaceful, Norbert Neuser, chief observer of the European Union Elections ObservatioMission, told reporters.
Neuser, a German politician, and his team visited two polling stations in the morning and met with journalists at the offices of Banjul’s mayor.