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May 12, 2018 | Gambia

Gambians return to polls for mayoral elections

AFP
Adama Barrow took over as president of Gambia after longtime leader Yahya Jammeh went into exile amid the threat of a regional military intervention having lost a 2016 presidential election.  By HECTOR RETAMAL (AFP/File)
Adama Barrow took over as president of Gambia after longtime leader Yahya Jammeh went into exile amid the threat of a regional military intervention having lost a 2016 presidential election. By HECTOR RETAMAL (AFP/File)

Gambians went to the polls Saturday for the first direct mayoral elections since former strongman Yahya Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017.

"Our predictions are that we are going to win all the seats. We will be disappointed if we lose any" up for grabs in eight municipal councils, Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the ruling United Democratic Party, Ousainou Darboe, told AFP.

The UDP won an absolute majority in last month's election for local councils in the tiny West African state which is bounded by Senegal, save for a tiny coastal strip.

Councils have previously been dominated by Jammeh's former party the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).

The political about-turn followed Adama Barrow's accession to the presidency which cast Jammeh's old party into the electoral wilderness after the former won the 2016 presidential election.

Jammeh, who had ruled for 22 years, contested that poll but left for exile in January amid accusations of rampant corruption and human rights abuses and under the threat of a regional military intervention.

The last local elections under his stewardship, in 2013, were largely boycotted by the opposition.

Mayor Yankuba Colley, mobiliser for the APRC, told AFP participation was low.

"The turn out is not impressive at all. However, we are hopeful that we are going to win three out of the eight seats up for grabs."

Final results are expected early Sunday from a poll which ends an electoral cycle that began with the presidential poll of 2016.

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