The Gambian people are preparing to go to the polls for the first time since the end of Jammeh’s dictatorial rule. A lot is expected from this election, as Gambians will be voting today for their first truly democratically elected National Assembly: 239 candidates are vying for the votes of 886,578 citizens to secure one the 53 seats at stake.
Many Gambians believe the number of parties and candidates participating demonstrate the progress The Gambia has already made in advancing democracy. However, after the ballots are counted and elected officials take their place, the fight for freedom and democracy cannot end.
Twenty-two years of repression, dictatorship, and bad governance have ruined the country and left its population with a pressing need for justice and answers. The economy is in a disastrous situation and unable to provide means of subsistence to its young population, many of whom have already immigrated to Western countries over the past few years.
State institutions, including the legal system, the legislative branch, the intelligence and security apparatus, previously all served for the sole benefit of Jammeh and to ensure his consolidation of and maintenance of power. While the transition government is still assessing the extent of the crimes committed by the regime, including the looting of the countries financial resources, today’s legislative elections are key to elect a National Assembly committed to reforms to rebuild The Gambia.
Newly elected parliamentarians have a long road ahead of them. Their performance in the early days of their term will be key in sending a message to Gambian citizens that democratic governance and processes are here to stay, and will send another strong message to other nations across Africa that democracy does not need to remain the privilege of a few. The Gambian people must be confident in their government in order for their country to be democratically and economically successful.