In­ter­net and in­ter­na­tional calls banned for Gam­bia elec­tion

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

The Gam­bia has banned the in­ter­net and in­ter­na­tional phone calls as pres­i­den­tial elec­tions are held in the West African state.

Of­fi­cials have also banned demon­stra­tions to pre­vent un­rest af­ter the elec­tions.

Es­tate agent Adama Bar­row is chal­leng­ing Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh, who says di­vine in­ter­ven­tion will give him a fifth term.

The Gam­bia has not had a smooth trans­fer of power since in­de­pen­dence. Long queues have formed at polling sta­tions in the cap­i­tal, Ban­jul. The Gam­bia has a unique way of vot­ing for their pres­i­dent. In­stead of us­ing bal­lot pa­pers, vot­ers put a mar­ble into a coloured drum for their can­di­date. The sys­tem is aimed at tack­ling il­lit­er­acy and pre­vent­ing rig­ging. In the 2012 elec­tion, only two votes were de­clared in­valid af­ter peo­ple placed their mar­bles on top of drums.

Ob­servers say Mr Bar­row, who, ac­cord­ing to Bri­tish news re­ports, was once a se­cu­rity guard in the UK high street store Ar­gos, has gen­er­ated fresh en­thu­si­asm among op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers.

Hu­man rights groups ac­cuse Mr Jam­meh, who has in the past claimed he can cure Aids and in­fer­til­ity, of re­pres­sion and abuses.

Sev­eral pre­vi­ously bet­ter-known op­po­si­tion lead­ers are in jail af­ter tak­ing part in a rare protest in April.

Ob­servers from the Euro­pean Union and the West African re­gional bloc Ecowas are not at­tend­ing the vote.

Gambian of­fi­cials ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to the pres­ence of Western ob­servers, but the EU says it is stay­ing away out of con­cern about the fair­ness of the vot­ing process.

The African Union how­ever has despatched a hand­ful of ob­servers to su­per­vise the vote.

The Gam­bia, a tiny coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of less than two mil­lion, is sur­rounded on three sides by Sene­gal and has a short At­lantic coast­line, which is pop­u­lar with Euro­pean tourists.

The re­sults of the elec­tion are not ex­pected to be an­nounced im­me­di­ately.

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