WASHINGTON - Gambia’s United Democratic Party (UDP) has won a majority of seats in parliament after decades in the opposition.
The win means the party now controls both the legislature and the presidency after President Adama Barrow’s election victory in December over long-time leader Yahya Jammeh.
The UDP won 31 seats in the 53-seat National Assembly, allowing Barrow to move ahead with promised reforms, including overhauling the government and security forces.
Party leader Ousainou Darboe said he and the president “are on the same page on virtually everything.”
Jammeh party reduced to five seats
The former ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), led for decades by Jammeh, was reduced from 43 elected seats to five, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Commission chairman Alieu Momar Njie announced Friday at IEC headquarters that, in addition to 31 seats for the UDP and five seats for the APRC, the 14 remaining parliament seats were won by various other opposition groups that had united in support of Barrow’s candidacy against Jammeh last year.
More than 880,000 people were eligible to vote in Thursday’s parliamentary elections, choosing among candidates from 10 parties. Turnout was low at 42 percent, according to Njie, who said more civic education is needed to persuade people to come out and vote.
Barrow a surprise
Barrow’s victory in the December 1 presidential election was a major political surprise in Gambia, since Jammeh had ruled the small West African state for 22 years, since taking power in a coup.
Jammeh initially promised to heed the voters’ verdict, but changed his mind days later and refused to yield power, blaming the IEC for alleged mistakes in the vote count. Gambia’s neighbor states and African regional leaders eventually persuaded the longtime president to step down and go into exile, but not before Senegal mobilized troops on the two countries’ border to pressure him to concede defeat.
Earlier this month, Gambia’s new administration said it would set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and offer reparations to victims of Jammeh’s government, which has been accused of torturing and killing its opponents.