Gambian Party Seals Parliament Hold
BANJUL, Gambia (AP) _ President Yahya Jammeh’s ruling party sealed its hold on power in this tiny West African nation, capturing nearly all parliamentary seats in elections boycotted by much of the opposition, the electoral commission said Friday.
Jammeh’s ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party ran uncontested in 33 constituencies and won 12 other seats in Thursday’s race, compared to three for the opposition, said Gabriel Roberts, chairman of the independent electoral commission.
The five remaining seats in the 53-member legislature are appointed by Jammeh.
The main opposition United Democratic Party of Ousainou Darboe, who launched a failed bid to oust Jammeh in October presidential elections, boycotted the ballot. Darboe claimed the government and the electoral commission were preparing to rig the vote, charges both deny. Two smaller opposition parties joined the boycott.
``It’s a shame that there would be only three opposition members in the national assembly for the next five years, which gives the government the power to do anything it wants without any effective opposition,″ said Musa Jatta, who supports a small opposition party.
The opposition holds 12 elected seats in the outgoing 49-member legislature, to the ruling party’s 33, and four other seats were appointed by the president.
Four new seats _ three elected and one appointed _ were added to the parliament voted in Thursday to reflect a population increase. Its first session is scheduled for Jan. 25.
Roberts said voter turnout was higher than expected, averaging 70 percent. Most Gambians expected Jammeh’s party to win most of the seats, and many had expressed indifference before the vote.
Jammeh, 36, first seized power in a 1994 military coup in which he overthrew Dawda Jawara, accusing him of corruption. Jammeh retired from the military to qualify for elections in 1996, held under pressure from international donors pressing for a return to civilian rule.
He won that race, but only after barring Jawara _ the only other president the country has known since it gained independence from Britain in 1965 _ from running.
Gambia, a nation of 1.3 million people on the Atlantic coast, has about 500,000 registered voters.