SR article

Gambian politics

This article is about the history of the politics in the Gambia: The previous presidents, the different political parties and past elections. Also it explains about the changing political climate since president Jammeh is the head of the government since 1994.


The Gambia has been under British power from the 15th century. The British Empire and France have been fighting over Senegal and Gambia over the ages. In 1889 the present boundaries were established with an agreement between the British Empire and France. From that time, The Gambia was a separate colony. In 1901 The Gambia received an executive and legislative council. The constitutional reform only continued half a century later, after World War II. In 1962 there were general elections, and in 1965 The Gambia became an independent constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as the Queen.

Since than, the Gambia has organized elections every five years. In 1970, The Gambia became a republic, but remained part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Sir Dawda Kaibara Jawara from the People's Progressive Party (PPP) became the and Prime Minister. The PPP has dominated the Gambian politics for a long time, Jawara was re-elected five times.

There was never a serious opposition party to ever challenge the position of the PPP apart from in 1981, when there was an attempted coup by the Socialist and Revolutionary Labour Party (SRLP). This led to a weaker economy and more allegations of corruption. The Prime Minister asked military aid from Senegal, which defeated the rebel force. 500 to 800 people were killed during the coup and the weeks after that.

Later, in 1994, there was a successful coup by Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, the chairman of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC). He became head of state, and today he still is. He said he wanted to turn The Gambia in a democratic civilian government. But the first presidential elections under his power in 1996, the PPP was banned from the elections. With the presidential, legislative and local elections of 2001 and 2002, they participated. Foreign observers judged these elections as free, fair and transparent, but the United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted these elections. Yahya Jemmeh was elected to continue as president and the AFPRC was also the biggest party in the National Assembly again.

Recent developments

In the elections in 2001, there are four different parties participating in the elections, but the current president Jammeh has always won the elections. [more INFO NADD]. And though at first the elections were regarded as free and fair, criticism started in 2006 when a opposition candidate was arrested. Afterwards Jammeh said: “I will develop the areas that vote for me, but if you don’t vote for me, don’t expect anything.”

Short after this, plans for a coup were uncovered, and a lot of army officials were arrested.  If there really was a coup planned or the president made it up for his own purposes has never been proofed. In 2009, again eight prominent Gambians were arrested and found guilty of treason for planning a coup. 

The criticism got worse and the elections in 2011 were characterized as not free, fair and transparent by the Economic Community of West African States. Jammeh was elected for another five year term. In 2014, there was another failed coup attempt, this time by American-Gambian citizens, including some US military veterans. 

In 2013, president Jammeh announced that the Gambia would leave the Commonwealth of Nations with immediate effect, because he doesn't want the country to be part of an institution with a 'neo-colonial character'. On 11 December 2015, the president declared The Gambia to be an Islamic republic.

Presidential elections 

The last presidential elections were in 2011. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) did not send any monitors because of "an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power... and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation". They judged the elections as unfair and not free at all. The African Union on the other hand praised the process of the voting in the Gambia. The official results were that Jammeh had 72% of the votes and his runner from the United Democratic Party had 17%.

This year, there will be presidential elections on 1th of December. Although there are opposition parties, no one expects that something will change.


All rights reserved