FILE - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh
FILE - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh

BANJUL, GAMBIA - Gambia will hold a presidential election in December 2016, with legislative and local polls to follow in April 2017 and April 2018, the electoral commission said Monday.

The tiny West African nation of less than 2 million people has been ruled by Yahya Jammeh since 1994, when the then 29-year-old seized power in a bloodless coup.

The controversial leader, who said in 2007 he had found an herbal cure for AIDS, was re-elected in 2011 with 72 percent of the vote.

Jammeh, who once told a reporter he could rule for "a billion years," had scrapped term limits from the constitution and blocked an attempt by regional bloc ECOWAS to reinstate them in May. The bloc refused to send observers to the last polls in 2011, citing intimidation of the opposition and the electorate.

"The presidential election will be held on Thursday, 1 December, 2016," commission chairman Alhagie Mustapha Carayol told journalists.

"The National Assembly elections will be held on Thursday, 6 April, 2017, and the local government elections on Thursday, 12 April, 2018."