Politics of the Gambia

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Coat of arms of The Gambia.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Gambia

Politics of the Gambia takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of the Gambia is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.

The 1970 constitution of the Gambia, which divided the government into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, was suspended after the 1994 military coup. As part of the transition process, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council established the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) through decree in March 1995. In accordance with the timetable for the transition to a democratically elected government, the commission drafted a new constitution for the Gambia which was approved by referendum in August 1996. The constitution provides for a strong presidential government, a unicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and the protection of human rights.

Political conditions[edit]

Before the coup d'état in July 1994, the Gambia was one of the oldest existing multi-party democracies in Africa. It had conducted freely contested elections every 5 years since independence. After the military coup, politicians from deposed President Jawara's People's Progressive Party (PPP) and other senior government officials were banned from participating in politics until July 2001.

The People's Progressive Party (PPP), headed by former president Jawara, had dominated Gambian politics for nearly 30 years. The last elections under the PPP regime were held in April 1992.

Following the coup, a presidential election took place in September 1996, in which retired Col. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh won 56% of the vote. The legislative elections held in January 1997 were dominated by the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (the new incarnation of AFPRC), which captured 33 out of 45 seats. In July 2001, the ban on Jawara-era political parties and politicians was lifted. Four registered opposition parties participated in the 18 October 2001 presidential election, which the incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh, won with almost 53% of the votes. The APRC maintained its strong majority in the National Assembly in legislative elections held in January 2002, particularly after the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted the legislative elections.

Monument over the 1994 coup

In 2005 the political scenario was changed, as five opposition parties united under the umbrella of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development. NADD thus represented virtually all political opposition forces in the country. Following the registration of NADD the High Court ruled that dual party membership was unconstitutional, and as NADD had been registered as a political party all four opposition MPs were dismissed from the National Assembly. By-elections were held on 29 September, in which NADD retained three of the four seats. On 15 November the same year, three high-ranking NADD leaders (including the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Halifa Sallah) were arrested on the grounds of subversion.

On 21 and 22 March 2006, amid tensions preceding the 2006 presidential elections, an alleged planned military coup was uncovered. President Yahya Jammeh was forced to return from a trip to Mauritania, many suspected army officials were arrested, and prominent army officials, including the army chief of staff, fled the country. There are claims circulating that this whole event was fabricated by the President incumbent for his own devious purposes - however the veracity of these claims is not known, as no corroborating evidence has as yet been brought forward. It is doubtful whether the full truth will ever be known however, as anyone with any evidence would not be likely to come forward with it in light of the poor human rights record of the National Intelligence Agency, and their well-known penchant for torturing and detaining indefinitely anyone who speaks up against the Government.

The next presidential election took place on 22 September 2006. The nominations for party Presidential candidates were held on 28 August 2006, amid reports of the Government intimidating and unfairly detaining Opposition members and sympathisers, and of using the machineries of state (including the national media arm of the Government, GRTS), to gain an unfair advantage during political campaigns. These reports follow a widely publicised signing of a Meromandum of Understanding between the Government and Opposition parties, initiated by the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo during a recent visit to the country. Incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, was reelected.

Executive branch[edit]

A government ministry signboard
Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Yahya Jammeh 12 October 1996

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term; the number of terms is not restricted. He appoints the members of the Cabinet.

Legislative branch[edit]

The National Assembly has 53 members, 48 members elected for a five-year term and 4 members appointed. Gambia is a one party dominant state with the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction in power. Opposition parties are allowed, but are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power.

Judicial branch[edit]

Supreme Court

Political parties and elections[edit]

For other political parties see List of political parties in the Gambia. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in the Gambia.
e • d Summary of the 25 January 2007 National Assembly of the Gambia election results
Parties Votes % Seats +/-
Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) 157,392 59.7 42 –3
United Democratic Party (UDP) 57,545 21.8 4 +4 ¹
National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) 29,773 11.3 1 –2 ²
Independents 18,751 7.1 1 +1
APRC (appointed by the president)     5 0
Total 263,461 100.0 53
The UDP boycotted the 2002 elections.

The NADD lost in comparison to the combined number of seats of the People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) with two seats and the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) with one seat.

e • d Summary of the 22 September 2006 presidential election results
Candidates Votes %
Yahya Jammeh (incumbent) Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) 264,404 67.33
Ousainou Darboe United Democratic Party (UDP) 104,808 26.69
Halifa Sallah National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) 23,473 5.98
Total 392,685 100.0

In August 1996 the government banned the following from participation in the elections of 1996: the People's Progressive Party or PPP [former President Dawda K. JAWARA (in exile)], and two opposition parties - the National Convention Party or NCP [former Vice President Sheriff DIBBA] and the Gambian People's Party or GPP [Hassan Musa CAMARA].

Administrative divisions[edit]

Local government in the Gambia varies. The capital city, Banjul, has an elected town council. Five rural divisions exist (Lower River, Central River, North Bank, Upper River, Western), each with a council containing a majority of elected members. Each council has its own treasury and is responsible for local government services. Tribal chiefs retain traditional powers authorized by customary law in some instances.

International organization participation[edit]

The Gambia is member of ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, Shelter Afrique-A regional housing institution owned by 42 African Countries OAU, (Now African Union abbreviated AU) OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO