Gambia’s leading opposition candidate says he is confident of a victory in Thursday’s presidential election, where incumbent President Yahya Jammeh is seeking a fourth term.
Analysts say President Jammeh is expected to win re-election after the opposition failed to create a coalition to mount an effective challenge.
Ousainu Darboe, candidate for the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), however, says President Jammeh will be defeated because Gambians are crying out for change.
“I do not want to predict the outcome of the election, but I think my chances are very good. Today, hundreds of thousands of young people came to welcome me. You needed to see the welcome party of human sea, of yellow and white, with everyone chanting, ‘We don’t want biscuit, we want change,’” he said.
Darboe said his confidence is also fueled by what he said are new changes introduced during this electoral process, including a directive for the government-controlled media to cover opposition campaign events.
He said, unlike incumbent President Jammeh, who he said throws candy out to young people along his motorcade route, he [Darboe] would, if elected, solve the country’s high youth unemployment rate, as well as restore what he calls Gambia’s lost dignity.
“I am promising them that, certainly, the cost of living will be looked into, youth unemployment will be looked into, the degrading treatment by this regime will be a matter of the past and, more importantly, no investor would feel threatened by the arrogant and unpredictable behavior of the current regime,” he said.
Analysts say President Jammeh is expected to win re-election after the opposition failed to create a coalition to challenge the incumbent. But, Darbo said the days of President Jammeh are numbered.
“I think President Jammeh has realized that his re-election is not a foregone conclusion. He realizes that he is on the steps of going out of the State House because the people want change. The people are disenchanted; the people feel betrayed, and they are not prepared to allow President Jammeh to benefit from their support,” Darboe said.
The sub-regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) earlier this year urged The Gambia to take all necessary measures to create optimal conditions for the conduct of peaceful, credible, free and transparent polls.
Responding to rumors that ECOWAS might not send observers to monitor Thursday’s poll, Darboe said he hopes ECOWAS will send monitors to get a first-hand assessment of the process.