(The Southern African Times) – The Gambia’s Supreme Court has dismissed a plea by the country’s main opposition party to annul the outcome of the December 4 presidential election, in which incumbent Adama Barrow was announced the winner.
Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), said the election campaign had been tainted by bribery and corruption.
“The UDP failed to comply with the requirement of Rule 11 of the Election Petition Rule, which required that you file a motion of petition and security,” Chief Justice Hassan B Jallow wrote in his judgement announced on Tuesday.
Barrow won the December 4 poll with 53 percent of the vote while Darboe, who was the Gambian vice president in Barrow’s administration, secured about 28 percent. Two other candidates refused to accept the results, citing alleged problems at polling stations without providing evidence.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the 73-year-old Darboe said he did not consider the court’s decision a personal loss, since the petition was dismissed on a procedural technicality rather than on the merit of its claims.
“We have not lost anything because the petition was not dismissed based on merit but a mere technicality,” Darboe said.
“We should be proud of ourselves for what we have done and will continue to do for the country.”
It alleged that 56-year-old Barrow or members of his National People’s Party had offered villagers cash or gifts for votes and infiltrated the electoral commission.
It also charged that foreign nationals had illegally cast ballots, and that voting and the vote count itself were marred by irregularities.
Darboe did not indicate whether he or his party would continue to challenge the election results. Supreme Court decisions are final and cannot be appealed.
The December vote marked the first election in the West African country, a former British colony of two million people, since Yahya Jammeh fled into exile in January 2017 after his surprise defeat at the ballot box.
He ruled for 22 years, presiding over a regime accused of a litany of abuses, including death squads and torture.
The United States has given its approval to the December 4 vote.
It says that the US and other observers had noted “some minor procedural irregularities” but the election was otherwise “free and fair”.
The European Union’s observer mission said The Gambia had made “democratic headway” as shown by “wide voter participation and citizen engagement”.
The EU and the US are pushing for The Gambia to enact wide-ranging electoral reform.
Barrow has promised to set term limits and for presidents to be elected by an absolute majority rather than through the current first-past-the-post system.