The first Gambian parliamentary elections since the defeat of Yahya Jammeh at the December polls and his subsequent ousting is taking place today (Thursday, 6th April 2017).
The Gambian parliamentary polls will see 238 candidates contesting for the 53 parliamentary seats and only a little over 800, 000 people are registered to vote in the election according to the country’s electoral commission.
Of the three major parties in the country, the United Democratic Party (UDP) has put up 44 candidates, Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) put up 52 candidates and Jammeh’s former party, the APRC party has put up 29 candidates.
Less major parties like the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) put up 14 candidates while Gambia People’s Democratic Party (GPDP) has four candidates and the National Convention Party (NCP) has three candidates, 24 candidates are contesting the election on the ticket of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) has 22 candidates.
There are also 41 people contesting the election as independent candidates. The polls will run from 8 am to 4 pm and votes will be counted on the spot to increase transparency. A candidate who has a simple majority of votes would be declared the winner.
Citizens have a lot of hope lying in this Gambian parliamentary elections. There is hope that the new lawmakers who will be elected will overhaul a national assembly once derided as a mere rubber stamp.
Lawmakers had apparently been mere figureheads during Jammeh’s tenure. At the time, laws were often made by executive decree and buttressed by legislation later on, if at all.
Of the 53 parliamentary seats open in the election, the President has the right to appoint people to five seats. The last legislative elections in 2012, saw Jammeh’s party taking 43 seats, with a large number uncontested due to an opposition boycott. This year, the United Democratic Party (UDP) is fielding the greatest number of candidates cementing them as the strongest opposition force in Gambian politics.