Regional Group Says Gambia’s Presidential Election Will Be Unfair

Posted November 23rd, 2011 at 8:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Gambia holds a presidential election Thursday which a West African regional bloc already says will not be free and fair.

Political observers expect President Yahya Jammeh to win another five year term after the opposition failed to form a coalition to challenge him.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States is refusing to send election observers to Gambia. ECOWAS says the campaign was rife with voter intimidation and ruling party control of the media. Observers from the European Union and African Union will be present.

President Jammeh took power in a bloodless coup in 1994. He is known for tossing candy and gifts to supporters at campaign events and also claims he has a herbal remedy that cures AIDS. His supporters say he has helped improve the country's infrastructure, education and healthcare.

But Mr. Jammeh's critics say Gambia is still deep in poverty. They accuse the president of being responsible for killings, torture and stifling political dissent and press freedoms.

Opposition candidate Ousainu Darboe tells VOA he is confident he can unseat Mr. Jammeh, saying Gambians are disenchanted with the longtime ruler and are ready for change.