Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (file photo)
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (file photo)

Gambians went to the polls Thursday for a presidential election expected to result in another term for incumbent Yahya Jammeh.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said this week the vote cannot be considered fair, citing alleged intimidation of voters and ruling party control of the media.

The chairman of Gambia's election commission has rejected the criticism.  Mustapha Carayol said Thursday that each party campaigned freely and there was no intimidation.

President Jammeh has ruled Gambia since seizing power in a 1994 coup.  His supporters say he has helped improve the country's infrastructure, education and healthcare.

But Jammeh's critics say Gambia is still deep in poverty. They accuse the president of being responsible for killings, torture and stifling political dissent and press freedoms.

Opposition candidate Ousainu Darboe told VOA he is confident he can unseat Jammeh.  He said Gambians are disenchanted with the longtime ruler and are ready for change.

The president is known for tossing candy and gifts to supporters at campaign events and also claims he has a herbal remedy that cures AIDS.  

Gambia uses a unique voting method in which voters drop a marble into a drum representing their candidate.  The system was devised to work around the West African country's high illiteracy rate.

Carayol says he expects Gambians will learn the outcome of the presidential vote by early Friday.