Factsheet: Important things know about election day

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Polling officials place marbles on the counting sieve to tally the votes for one candidate in the April 2017 parliamentary elections (Photo Credit: IFES)

By Kebba Jeffang 

Gambians vote in parliamentary elections in 2011 (Photo Credit: Modou S. Joof)

The Gambia will hold its first presidential election since Jammeh on Saturday 4 December 2021. At least 962,157 people registered to vote across the country. Here are some important facts about the election:

Who are the candidates?  

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) confirmed the nomination of six presidential candidates to contest the polls. The parties and their candidates are (alphabetical order):

  • Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh – National Unity Party (NUP)
  • Adama Barrow – National People’s Party (NPP)
  • Essa Mbaye Faal – Independent Candidate
  • Halifa Sallah – People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS)
  • Mamma Kandeh – Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC)
  • Ousainou ANM Darboe – United Democratic Party (UDP)

Voting time

The IEC has confirmed that polls will open at 08:00 am and close at 5:00 pm on Saturday 4 December 2021. However, voters will be allowed to cast their votes beyond 5pm as long as they join the queue before 5:00 pm.

Voting with a marble

Gambia’s unique voting system (TRT World and Agencies)

The Gambia uses a secret ballot system to vote. Voters must present their voter’s card to the polling officers at every polling station before they can vote. Eligible voters are confirmed using an electoral register. A voter is then given a marble to drop into any one of six ballot drums (the total number contestants) in a polling booth. These ballot drums are differentiated by party colour, party symbol, name and photo of contestant. Only one voter is allowed to enter the polling booth at a time to cast his or her vote.

How is the queue formed?

Voters are arranged in queues to ensure a smooth voting process depending on who comes first. However, persons living with disabilities and pregnant women are given priority passes.

How would the visually impaired persons vote since it is a secret ballot? 

The visually impaired are allowed to go with a trusted family member or friend who will cast votes to the candidate of their choice on their behalf. Where that is not possible, polling staff can perform such functions for the visually impaired persons.

Are voters allowed to show their affiliation identity?

No voter is allowed to dress in party insignia at polling centers. Voters are advised to avoid showing where they belong while at polling stations. The IEC admonishes people to simply vote and go about their normal business.

Will there be spot counting?

Immediately after the closing of polls, counting begins on the spot at all polling stations. Results at each polling station are signed by polling staff and candidate/party agents who are allowed to witness the entire election process. A copy of the result from the polling station is then pasted at the polling station and shared with the appropriate collation center. Collation centers tabulate and share results with assistant returning officers at the regional level. The assistant returning officers then communicate this result to the returning offer for the election (that is the chairman of the IEC).

Security presence 

It is normal to see security personnel from the Gambia Police Force, Immigration and Prison Guards deployed to assist in the smooth conduct of elections. These security personnel are attached to each polling station across the country to provide security and support to election officials.

Who is qualified to announce the winner?

It is only the Returning Officer who is the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission who is mandated to communicate official results and declare a winner. However, it is not uncommon for media houses and election observers to collate and tabulate results and give projections. These projections are not official and therefore should be treated as such.

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Sang Mendy, managing director of the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJAC), is by default the head of Fact Check Gambia. Sang holds a BA in Journalism and Digital Media from the University of The Gambia. He also holds an Advanced Diploma in Mass Communication and a Higher Teachers Certificate. Prior to being the manager, he worked as a journalism trainer and a radio producer. Sang spends his spare time mentoring the young.

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