Gambian Leader Runs for Re-Election in Criticized Poll

Posted November 24th, 2011 at 9:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Gambian President Yahya Jammeh says he is confident he will earn a new five-year term in a presidential election that has been condemned by the region's main economic bloc.

Mr. Jammeh Thursday told reporters voters would re-elect him based on his record since taking power in a coup 17 years ago. The president said he has accomplished greater development than the British did during 400 years of colonialism.

The president's supporters say he has helped improve the country's infrastructure, education and health care. But his 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.

The Economic Community of West African States said this week the vote cannot be considered fair, citing alleged intimidation of voters and ruling party control of the media.

The chairman of Gambia's election commission rejected the criticism. Mustapha Carayol told VOA Thursday that each party campaigned freely and there was no intimidation.

Carayol says he expects Gambians will learn the outcome of the presidential vote by early Friday.

The president is known for tossing candy and gifts to supporters at campaign events and claims he has a herbal remedy that cures AIDS.

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

Gambia uses a unique voting method in which voters drop a marble into a drum representing their candidate. The system was devised to work around the West African country's high illiteracy rate.