BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambian President Adama Barrow will face five challengers in an election on Dec. 4, the first vote in 27 years not to include exiled former leader Yahya Jammeh, who fled the country after refusing to accept his defeat five years ago.
Barrow will be judged on his progress dragging the country out of a Jammeh era characterised by harsh political crackdowns, fear and financial plunder. The election is being held under conditions of economic hardship after the COVID-19 pandemic kept European tourists away from Gambia’s beaches.
Candidates include Barrow’s former political mentor Ousainou Darboe, 73, as well as Essa Mbye Faal, who served as chief counsel of Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that chronicled the abuses of Jammeh’s rule. Also running is Mama Kandeh, who came third in the 2016 polls.
Fifteen other candidates were rejected for not meeting election commission standards.
Barrow, a former security guard in London, has been stymied by COVID-19. The economy shrank 0.2% in 2020, although it is expected to grow 4.9% this year.
Critics point to a rise in crime and poor electricity and internet networks. Some are mistrustful: Barrow initially said he would only serve as a transitional leader for three years but can now run for as long as he likes after a bill to limit presidents to two terms failed to pass last year.
Still, a recent programme to build 50 roads has been well received and many in the country of 2.4 million people appreciate his calm demeanour and leniency after Jammeh.
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Peter Graff)