Three opposition candidates have rejected the partial results of Gambia’s election that show President Adama Barrow heading for a resounding victory, citing an unusual delay in tallying the votes.
Barrow had won about 54 percent of votes from 50 of 53 constituencies, leaving the West African nation of 2.5 million people on the verge of a result that was expected to draw a line under a difficult political past.
“A simple majority is enough for any of the six candidates to win,” Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reported earlier from the capital Banjul.
Saturday’s vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former president Yahya Jammeh, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.
Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny nation of 2.5 million people was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents, had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.
Official results suggested he had failed to dent Barrow’s following, and representatives from all opposition parties signed off on the tally sheets already read to the election commission on Sunday.
But late on Sunday Barrow’s nearest rival, veteran politician Ousainou Darboe, and two other candidates, Mama Kandeh and Essa Mbye Faal, said they would not accept the results.
“We are concerned that there had been an inordinate delay in the announcement of results,” their statement said. “A number of issues have been raised by our party agents and representatives at the polling stations.”
The election is being closely watched as a test of the democratic transition in The Gambia, where Jammeh ruled after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994.
Barrow, 56, faces five challengers in his re-election bid.
Several factors slowed the tally, including The Gambia’s scarce financial resources, high turnout and the country’s unusual voting system.
Illiteracy is widespread in The Gambia, so voters cast their ballot by dropping a marble into a tub marked with their candidate’s colour and photo – a practice dating back to the country’s past as a British colony.
Many of the roughly one million eligible voters in the nation of more than two million people are hoping for an improvement in their living standards.
Barrow is running on a continuity ticket, pointing to infrastructure projects completed under his watch, as well as increased civil liberties.
The 73-year-old is a lawyer who has represented opponents of Jammeh, and who ran for president against the former strongman several times.
He also served as foreign minister and then vice president under Barrow, before stepping down in 2019.
Jammeh lost to Barrow in the 2016 election but was only finally removed by military intervention from other west African states.