The Gambia’s democratic transition is dealing with a litmus take a look at

Almost 5 years in the past, in December 2016, The Gambia introduced authoritarian President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year reign to an finish by a democratic election. Since then, regardless of dealing with quite a few obstacles and challenges, the West African nation has managed to strengthen its democracy and widen its political area considerably. However, The Gambia’s democratic transition will face its hardest take a look at up to now on December 4, when the nation holds its first presidential and parliamentary elections because the departure of Jammeh.

When present President Adama Barrow got here to energy, he had promised that he would name for brand spanking new elections after three years. However, he rescinded that promise in 2019, and introduced that he intends to serve a full five-year time period as prescribed within the structure. This led to minor protests, however didn’t cease Barrow from taking the required steps to consolidate his energy.

In December 2019, Barrow established the National People’s Party (NPP) as a automobile to hunt a second time period within the upcoming election. Since then, the brand new celebration has managed to garner important standard help and elevated Barrow’s probabilities of a second time period.

Last month, Barrow made one final move to increase his help base earlier than the essential election and introduced an alliance between his NPP and Yahya Jammeh’s APRC.

The tactical alliance between the 2 events has ruffled some feathers within the nation. Many see the move as an indication of Barrow’s lack of ability to go away Jammeh’s repressive legacy behind and open a brand new democratic chapter in Gambian politics. Moreover, Gambians who had been victimised by Jammeh and his supporters during the last 20 years perceived the move as a stab within the again and a denial of their struggling.

The NPP-APRC alliance additionally offers rise to fears that Jammeh, who has been in exile in Equatorial Guinea since January 2017, might quickly return to the nation and reinsert himself in Gambian politics. The specifics of the deal between the NPP and APRC haven’t been made public, however many suspect Barrow has agreed to grant Jammeh amnesty for the crimes he dedicated throughout his reign in return for political help. There are comprehensible fears that such an settlement would hinder The Gambia’s efforts for democratisation and transactional justice.

Barrow’s obvious want to carry on to energy at any value, the controversial NPP-APRC alliance and Jammeh’s attainable return to the political area, nonetheless, are usually not the one challenges dealing with The Gambia’s democratic transition forward of the December Four election.

In the previous 5 years, The Gambia made important progress when it comes to increasing political illustration. Today, 18 registered political events are competing for the help of simply over 1,000,000 eligible voters within the nation. But this crowded electoral market just isn’t a web constructive for Gambian democracy. These events have conflicting agendas and a few are usually not hesitating to gas divisions and conflicts so as to increase their help base.

Furthermore, the excessive variety of political events taking part within the election, coupled with The Gambia’s first-past-the-post electoral system, implies that a candidate with simply 100,000 votes can develop into the nation’s subsequent president. This is a significant menace to the nation’s stability, because it paves the best way for dropping candidates to declare the elections illegitimate, demand reruns and even set off civil unrest.

Another challenge that hinders The Gambia’s democratic transition forward of the election is the continued disenfranchisement of the Gambian diaspora. While their precise quantity just isn’t identified, between 140,000 to 200,000 Gambians are estimated to be presently living outdoors the nation. The Gambian diaspora performed an vital function in fuelling the opposition motion that finally introduced Jammeh’s reign to an finish. In response, the Barrow administration tried to offer them a say within the nation’s electoral politics by a brand new structure. But when the nationwide meeting rejected the draft structure in 2020, the diaspora’s dream of taking part within the 2021 election was shattered. Today, within the eyes of many, the upcoming election goes to be lower than democratic, as a big share of Gambians won’t have a say in who will lead their nation for the subsequent 5 years.

The Gambia has come a good distance because the finish of Jammeh’s reign of fear and intimidation. Despite the numerous difficulties the nation has confronted because the final election, its youthful and dynamic inhabitants is trying on the future with hope and positivity. This, nonetheless, doesn’t imply its democratic transition is full. The December Four election would be the most consequential within the nation’s historical past and decide whether or not The Gambia will handle to stay on the trail to democracy.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.