Since independence in 1965, The Gambia has held periodic multi-party elections. But it had never registered an electoral turnover of power until December 2016 when independent presidential aspirant Adama Barrow, backed by seven opposition political parties, defeated the incumbent, Yahya Jammeh. Following the defeat of Jammeh – whose 22-year dictatorship was characterised by attacks on democratic freedoms – the political environment has become increasingly competitive.
238 candidates contested for the 53 directly elected seats – a further five are appointed by the president – in the April 2017 National Assembly elections. At present, 16 political parties are registered with the country’s electoral body, an increase from nine in 2016. This proliferation has happened despite the high cost of registering a political party: 1 million Dalasi (D1,000,000 or $20,000). But it is not just the cost of registering a political party that has risen sharply. For those contesting for seats in the legislature, the costs involved were high in 2017, and all indications suggest that they will be higher when the next scheduled legislative polls take place in 2022.