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African Union Observers Impressed With Gambia Election

People wait to vote outside a polling station in Serrekunda, southwest the capital Banjul, during the presidential elections. Gambians voted in polls, which some observers said were skewed in favor of incumbent Yahya Jammeh, who heaped scorn on criticism

The leader of the African Union (AU) poll observer mission monitoring Gambia’s presidential election says his team is positively impressed with the organization of the poll and the conduct of voters.

Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission says it will release final results of the presidential election today (Friday).

Samuel Fonkam, who is also chairman of Cameroon’s Electoral Board (ELECAM), says members of the group did not see any incidents of violence or intimidation in the run up to the election.

“Throughout the 24 constituencies we visited, the turnout was massive, orderly, peaceful and really serene,” said Fonkam. “The Gambian people demonstrated to those who wanted to see that they are the sovereign masters of their destinies.”

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) refused to send poll observers to monitor Gambia’s vote.

Citing “intimidation, an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power, the lack of neutrality of state and para-statal institutions, and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation,” the sub-regional bloc said conditions on the ground will not ensure a level playing field.

The chairman of Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission sharply disputes ECOWAS’ claims.

“Our election is one of the fairest in the world. We use marbles; we don’t use ballot papers, [and] we have very few invalid votes. All Gambians understand the system,” said Carayol. “Each party will have its own agents [throughout the entire process]; they will verify the results, and sign the results before I announce [them]. In Gambia, you cannot rig an election. Our elections are free and fair.”

The head of the AU poll monitoring group echoed similar sentiments. He said members of his team didn’t witness any activity that could compromise the credibility of the vote.

“We didn’t notice any intimidation anywhere. The policemen who were in the polling stations were not armed, and as much as possible tried to do their job without interfering with the process.”

Fonkam praised Gambia’s electoral commission for administering what he calls a serene election, devoid of violence.

“We give them a good pass mark. On the whole, they did more than well,” said Fonkam. “The polling stations were very clearly marked [and] the material arrived on time. The polling officials we met gave us the impression they were very well trained.”

Analysts say incumbent President Yahya Jammeh who is vying for his fourth consecutive term in office, will win despite a stiff challenge from opposition candidates.