The results announced on Friday by electoral officials revealed that the APRC victory meant taking key heartland constituencies from a divided opposition.

  

Yahya Jammeh, the president of the APRC, who seized power in 1994 as a young army lieutenant, names a further five unelected members to the 53-member house.

 

Party rundown

   

The main opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP), clinched four seats in the election but lost a stronghold at Jarra, an area along the mangrove-lined Gambia river.

   

The second biggest opposition party, the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD), won one seat.

   

But Halifa Sallah, leader of the NADD party, who came a distant third in a presidential poll in September, lost his seat after a UDP candidate split the vote in the Serekunda Central constituency.

   

"I am very very confident that if we had a political alliance of the various parties that ... most people would have voted for the opposition, for one bloc," Sallah said.

"I am very very confident that if we had a political alliance of the various parties that ... most people would have voted for the opposition, for one bloc"

Halifa Sallah, president of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD)

 

Jammeh has said he plans to rule for another three decades and turn his peanut-growing, fishing- and tourism-dependent country into a highly-developed powerhouse.

   

Electoral officials said turnout was 41.7 per cent, similar to the poll in September which saw Jammeh return with 67 per cent of votes.

   

"If you look at the results there is real gross voter apathy ... It may be the basis for re-evaluation of politics in the country," said Sallah.

   

An independent candidate won the remaining seat in the poll, which used a unique system created by a British colonial official in which voters drop a marble into a metal drum, striking a bell inside to prevent cheating.

 

Imprisonment   

 

Oussainou Darboe, president of UDP and a human rights lawyer who came second to Jammeh in the poll in September, said police had arrested two of his candidates in the run-up to the poll, and accused the APRC of using the security forces for political ends.

   

Human rights and press freedom groups accuse Jammeh's administration of imprisoning political opponents and journalists without trial, and of failing to investigate the assassination in late 2004 of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara.

   

Jammeh said after his re-election in September he has the right to lock up journalists and close down any newspaper that offended him, but denied any role in Hydara's killing.