|Members of the Gambian army celebrating Jammeh's presidential election victory in 2011|
The ruling party of Yaya Jammeh, has been handed a devastating electoral defeat in one of his strongest areas of political support in the country. The opposition candidate trounced the ruling party's candidate by over a 2:1 margin - 2,754 votes to 1,618 in the Lower Saloum Constituency by-elections. The constituency has been in APRC hands since 1996, and this is the first time the seat has changed hands.
The opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) defeated the APRC candidate in a contest that saw the ruling party stalwarts led by the Works and Infrastructure Minister, Balla Jahumpa, Tourism Minister Benjamin Roberts, former Ambassador Cherno Touray a native of the area, both current and former Governors of the Region and many more traversed the constituency touting the development programs that Jammeh has brought to the area. Despite all the efforts, Yaya Jammeh and his ruling party were trounced resoundingly.
The humiliating defeat is a repudiation of the failed policies of a regime that have plunged the country into absolute chaos with a negative growth of an economy that has been contracting for over a five year period. Poverty is on the increase and 600,000 Gambians or a third of the population is food insecure. It is estimated that the figure will increase to 800,000 or one half of the population by the end of the year.
The victory by the NRP is, in our view, should not be observed in a celebratory fashion because the elections were conducted under the newly passed electoral reform laws which increased the presidential candidate deposit from D 10,000 to D 1 million, later reduced to D 500,000 and the parliamentary candidates must deposit D 5,000 from D 50,000.
A cautionary note to the opposition is in order - never allow the new law to become the law of the land because, as we have argued before, the new rates are a form of a poll tax designed to destroy the opposition.
The 2016 elections should be conducted under the previous rates, or at lower rates. The electoral process must be accommodating and political party-friendly that encourages increased participation of the parties and the electorate alike and not to restrict them. The new law restricts participation of Gambians and the political parties in the electoral process.
We must also continue to demand that Jammeh not be allowed to present himself as a presidential candidate in any future election. The Lower Saloum electorate have spoken in a very loud and clear voice, despite that the elections were conducted under a flawed and inequitable electoral laws, that they have had enough of Yaya Jammeh and his corrupt and repressive regime. The Lower Saloum voters have spoken for the entire Gambian people as well.