Gambia's Jammeh leads in vote tally so far
25 November 2011, 04:30
Banjul - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh
headed for a new term on Friday with a partial tally showing he
won 77.35 percent of votes in a poll criticised regionally for
intimidation of opposition groups and voters.
Former military coup leader Jammeh's victory is seen by many
analysts as a foregone conclusion in a country known for
palm-fringed tropical beaches but which is regularly accused by
rights groups of repression of dissent and press-muzzling.
"I am confident to win with a landslide majority," the
46-year-old former army coup leader told reporters as he voted
in the capital Banjul on Thursday.
"People know what I did for the Gambia for the past 17 years
in terms of development. The British who were here for 400 years
never did that," he said of Gambia's former colonial ruler whose
presence was established in the 16th century.
The early count was released during the night by the
Independent Electoral Commission based on a count of 13 percent
of votes. Main opposition leader Ousainou Darboe scored 14.5
percent and independent candidate Amath Bah was on 8.3 percent.
Nearly 800,000 voters were registered in a system under which
they are given one marble each, which they drop into a drum
corresponding to the candidate of their choice. The marble
strikes a bell inside the drum, preventing multiple voting.
One of Africa's most controversial rulers, Jammeh announced
in 2007 he had a herbal concoction that cured AIDS, but only on
Thursdays, a claim derided by international health experts.
He declared in July neither a vote nor a coup could oust
him, saying he ruled thanks to divine intervention. He has
courted controversy with reported threats to human rights groups
and a 2008 order for all homosexuals to leave Gambia.
Regional body ECOWAS, in an unusually strong criticism of a
member state, said on Tuesday it would not send a mission to
observe the poll "because the preparations and political
environment ... are adjudged by the commission not to be
conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls."
Its fact-finding mission found "an unacceptable level of
control of the electronic media by the party in power ... and an
opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation".
Supporters of Jammeh point to various development projects
undertaken in 17 years since a 1994 coup, while others note the
crippling poverty in a country where income per head is around
$1 a day.
"I am coming to vote and pray for change because life is
very hard," said Binta Jah, a housewife voting in the coastal
town of Serekunda.
"The average Gambian cannot afford a bag of rice," she said.
(Writing by Mark John)