Three opposition candidates have rejected the partial results of Gambia’s election that show President Adama Barrow heading for a resounding victory, citing an unusual delay in tallying the votes.
Barrow had won about 54% of votes from 50 of 53 constituencies, leaving the West African nation of 2.5 million people on the verge of a result that was expected to draw a line under a difficult political past.
Saturday’s vote was the first in 27 years without former President Yahya Jammeh, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.
Jammeh, whose 22-year rule was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents, had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.
Official results suggested he had failed to dent Barrow’s following, and representatives from all opposition parties signed off on the tally sheets already read to the election commission on Sunday.
But late on Sunday Barrow’s nearest rival, veteran politician Ousainou Darboe, and two other candidates, Mama Kandeh and Essa Mbye Faal, said they would not accept the results.
“We are concerned that there had been an inordinate delay in the announcement of results,” their statement said. “A number of issues have been raised by our party agents and representatives at the polling stations.”
The election was seen as a test of Gambia’s democratic progress and its ability to leave the Jammeh era behind.
Barrow’s first term was marked by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.
Banjul was calm on Sunday night, albeit with a heavy police presence, especially at the election commission headquarters, where water cannon had been set up.