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Gambian President Adama Barrow's party United Democratic Party (UDP) won an absolute majority in parliamentary elections, easily defeating the party of ousted leader Yahya Jammeh.
Official results announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) indicated UDP had won 31 of the 53 available elected seats in the country's National Assembly. " I hereby declare the final results as follows: UDP won 31 seats; APRC (former president Jammeh's party) won five seats," IEC chairman Alieu Momar Njie declared at the commission headquarters.
Five more seats are appointed by the president to give a total 58 seats in the chamber, giving the UDP a two-seat majority. The UDP was one of seven parties who united to propel President Adama Barrow to power in last year's December presidential election. However, that coalition broke apart for the legislative election.
The party has long considered itself a government-in-waiting, and Barrow was UDP treasurer until resigning to become the flagbearer candidate for the coalition. UDP's victory is likely to make it easier for Barrow to implement a raft of promised reforms.
Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) meanwhile suffered a stunning defeat going from 48 seats to just five overnight. Analysts said the results reveal the deep anger felt by Jammeh's critics at the actions of the past regime.
An expected surge for the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), an upstart party which did not join the coalition, failed to materialise, with the youth-led movement gaining just five seats. Smaller parties who joined the coalition took 11 more seats, and one independent candidate took a seat.
Gambia's Electoral Chairman Njie noted the turnout was low at 42 percent saying more civic education was needed to convince people to come out and vote in legislative polls. More than 880,000 Gambians were eligible to vote for the body's 53 elected seats.
It is the first election of lawmakers since longtime leader Yahya Jammeh left power. The new lawmakers are expected to scrutinize a wide range of reforms pledged by President Adama Barrow.
Lamin Dibba, a senior UDP official, said the vote put the party in a strong position to make major changes in The Gambia. "It's increased our confidence and I think in the near future it will be very easy for us to form a government," Dibba said. "Our first priority will be to look at the constitution," he added.
Dibba said their priority will also be to ensure that the national assembly gives the nation the power to form laws rather than the president, referring to Jammeh's frequent use of executive orders to push through laws.
The African Union, the regional bloc ECOWAS and the European Union all sent observers to monitor the elections.
West African troops remained on the ground to ensure security three months after Jammeh's departure. The soldiers will remain in the tiny west African nation until Barrow is satisfied that reforms of the security service have removed rogue elements.
zn/cm (AFP, Reuters, AP)