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Gambia's Opposition Calls On President To Step Down After Election Defeat

Gambia President-elect Adama Barrow (left) speaks to members of the media on Saturday in Banjul, Gambia.
Dawda Bayo

Gambia's opposition coalition is calling on current President Yahya Jammeh to step down immediately after his election defeat to opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia since he led a military coup more than two decades ago, initially appeared to accept the outcome of the vote earlier this month, raising hopes that the country would see its first-ever peaceful transfer of power since it gained independence in 1965.

But as The Two-Way reported, a week after Jammeh conceded, he suddenly said he rejected the vote due to supposed "irregularities" — a move that was immediately condemned by the international community.

"Gambia's election commission acknowledged its tally of the vote had some mistakes, but says that did not affect the outcome of the December 1st election, which handed victory to Adama Barrow," NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells our Newscast unit.

"The election results were correct, nothing will change that," elections commission head Alieu Momarr Njai said Sunday, as Reuters reported. "If it goes to court, we can prove every vote cast. The results are there for everyone to see."

Jammeh initially said the election must be re-run. Then, as Ofeibea reports:

"Gambia's governing party said it was going the legal route to challenge the results in court. However, the opposition coalition that defeated Jammeh has told journalists that Gambia has no sitting Supreme Court to consider the case. The coalition also says the outgoing president has no constitutional authority, in his final days in office, to appoint new judges to hear his petition."

It's not clear exactly what role the judiciary will play in the matter, but Jammeh is said to exert significant influence over the country's judges. A challenge to the vote must be submitted to a court by Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Leaders from neighboring countries are reportedly flying in to meet with Jammeh. "The presidents of Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone will arrive in the Gambia on Tuesday to try to persuade him to step down," according to The Guardian.

Meanwhile, President-elect Adama Barrow, a businessman, is reportedly afraid for his safety. Over the weekend, Reuters reported, his home "was surrounded by around 30 unarmed supporters who said they were providing security after the police and military declined to protect him."

One of the biggest unanswered questions is why Jammeh waited a week before he came out against the election results that would unseat him.

The Economist suggests a possible answer:

"[O]ne theory among diplomats in Gambia is that he had become so confident of his own popularity that on this particular vote — his fifth since seizing power — he did not bother to rig it, allowing ballots to be counted on the spot rather than in central counting houses away from prying eyes. When that relatively fair and transparent vote caught him by surprise, it took several days for him to work out a plan of action, during which time he had little choice but to play the role of magnanimous loser."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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