Jammeh to contest election in court
Gambia’s incumbent head of state Yahya Jammeh will contest in court the election victory handed to opposition candidate Adama Barrow, his party has said. In a shock rejection of his defeat at the polls, Jammeh cited in a speech broadcast late Friday “unacceptable errors” by election authorities. He was referring to a readjustment of the votes counted in the December 1 presidential election.
Jammeh’s declaration was “a prelude to a petition that the (ruling) APRC Party is in the process of filing before the Supreme Court of the Gambia against a fraud decision of the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission),” his party said in a statement released late Saturday.
Jammeh had said Friday that he had previously accepted the electoral results “believing that the Independent Electoral Commission was independent and honest and reliable”, but would now “reject the results in totality.” Jammeh’s swift concession of defeat on December 2 had stunned observers and led to celebrations in the country.
Constitutionally Jammeh has 10 days after the election result is declared to file a complaint, but that deadline-December 12 — is a bank holiday, meaning he may have an extra day in lieu. His lawyers might also argue he has 10 days after the recount declaration, according to legal experts. The Supreme Court has not sat in more than a year, so judges will have to be appointed before they can consider the president’s legal complaint, potentially delaying Barrow’s inauguration.
Jammeh, a devout Muslim who seized power in 1994 in the former British colony, warned Gambians not to take to the streets to protest his decision, raising concerns from rights groups. “President Jammeh’s rejection of the election results and his statement that he will not tolerate protest risks leading to instability and possible repression,” said Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher. Latest official figures gave Barrow 43.29 percent of the votes in the presidential election, while Jammeh took 39.64 percent.
The turnout was 59 percent. Those figures reflect the correction issued Monday by election authorities, showing a slimmer-than-thought victory for Barrow, of just over 19,000 votes. Barrow on Saturday called on Jammeh to drop his challenge, while the UN, US and other foreign authorities lambasted Jammeh and urged Gambians to keep the peace.