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Gambians vote with marbles in a key test for stability

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This is the first democratic election in the Gambia since the former president Yahya Jammeh was voted out of office in 2016.
Jammeh, who was defeated by an opposition coalition backed by the current president Adama Barrow, fled to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after refusing to accept defeat.

Barrow, a 56-year-old former security guard and real estate developer, will face five challengers, including his former political mentor, 73-year-old Ousainou Darboe.

Nearly 1 million people out of about 2.5 million people are registered to vote on the peninsula Africathe smallest country. Turnout is expected to be high, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

At a polling station in the capital Banjul, election officials took the voting drums outside to show the long queues of voters that they were empty before voting began.

Siddy Khan was the first to vote in his booth. He came out leaning on his cane, with blue ink on his right index finger to show that he had voted. “I’m fine. I hope the vote goes well,” the 71-year-old said.

Gambians are comfortable with the process of using glass marbles to vote, said Mamadou A. Barry, IEC’s director general. The system was introduced in the 1960s to prevent canceled ballots in a nation with a high illiteracy rate.

“Every voter gets a marble,” he said. “I think it’s transparent and fair.”

The results are expected by Sunday under the simple majority system.

Other candidates include Essa Mbye Faal, who served as chief adviser to the Gambia Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Committee, which reported on the abuses of the Jammeh government, and Mama Kandeh, who finished third in 2016 and has Jammeh support.

On Thursday night, when the campaign came to an end, hundreds of jubilant supporters of Barrow gathered in downtown Banjul for a final rally, hoping for another Barrow term to ensure stability. Gambia is trying to bring back 22 years of Jammeh rule.

Barrow, who has made fancy promises during the campaign, told the crowd that he planned to introduce health insurance that would allow access to treatment without advance payments.

Critics, however, say Barrow has broken his promises, noting how he backtracked on his promise to serve just three years after winning in 2016. Barrow has argued that the constitution requires him to serve a full term. of five years.

Barrow’s main rival, Darboe, told supporters on Thursday that he intended to work to reconcile Gambians and bring justice to those who suffered under Jammeh’s rule.

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