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Friday, December 1, 2023

2018 Gambia local government polls: Big winners, big losers

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By Hatab Fadera

The outcome of the 2018 Local Government polls is quite revealing. Once again, it emphasises the absolute need for political parties to refine strategies and particularly establish vital structures in all political units across the country. The results confirm that certain parties put structures, which are significantly affecting their performances. Did some parties undervalue this election? It seems so. The wards are the smallest political units of The Gambia. They are the grassroots and first port of call for the electorate.

The wards lay the foundation for both National Assembly and Presidential elections. It’s the base and grabbing the wards means a lot to the vibrancy of the parties. Without these wards, it will be hard for parties to make headway in the other major elections. The ideologies and policies of the parties need to be firmly rooted at this level.
Having said that, let’s have a fleeting look at some performances.

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The United Democratic Party
The biggest winners here are the United Democratic Party (UDP). The outcome shows the yellow party sweeping polls across the country. Winning more than half of the seats, the results confirm that the party is working really hard to strengthen its structures. Of the 120 seats contested, UDP has grabbed 62; more than 50 percent of the seats. The biggest comeback for the party in my view is winning five seats in Banjul. What a big difference for a party that only a year ago lost in the seat of the government.

What did the party do differently this time around to win five seats in an area thought to be favored by either the People Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism and the Progressive People’s Party? These two parties won the Capital’s seats in the National Assembly polls last year. A good grassroots presence for any political party in the Capital is a big influence and a real political victory. It’s also a proof that parties can win just any area with better winning strategies. Looking at the results in the Kanifing Municipality, again, the yellow party did well although with disappointments in some areas, including Talinding.

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It also performed better in West Coast Region even after losing the entire Foni area, the birth region of former President Jammeh. Foni by its design is not a major political decider for our politics. Else it would have prevented Jammeh’s demise. Its neighbors – the Kombo part of the region – are the swing areas. The UDP lost in Foni, but overall, it performed well in the region with 15 out of the 28 seats. In the provinces, some good strongholds of the party went to the oppositions, especially in Jarra and Kiang. This means that the party cannot be complacent and must get to the drawing board to examine what went wrong in those areas and how to get them back in future polls.


The Gambia Democratic Congress
The Gambia Democratic Congress might have delivered poor, but one may also commend it for making a significant progress in the just concluded elections. It comes second, although almost tripled in performance by the UDP. But with all due respect, this is a party of just about three or so years old yet it has managed to outperformed big name old parties like the People Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and former ruling party, Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). The GDC has performed better in the rural Gambia but did really bad in the Greater Banjul, the swing regions of The Gambia. It has zero seats in Kanifing and just two seats in West Coast Region. This shows that the party needs to do a lot of work for any chance to deliver a major upset in future elections. This is so because the Greater Banjul and Kombo are undoubtedly the major deciders in Gambian elections.


Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction
It is hard to imagine that even after all the negative press and bad imaging of the former ruling party, it has performed better than all the coalition parties but one. Grabbing 18 seats means a lot for a party that many thought would have suffered a natural death two years after its dramatic fall. But even without Foni, APRC has got about seven seats elsewhere, almost equal to the entire PDOIS seats. However, for the party to make a real comeback, it needs to stop relying on Foni for its political success and win big in other regions. That’s the only way for the party to test its strength post-Jammeh. Imagine what would happen if Foni eventually fall to one of the political parties. That will spell doom for the APRC; a coma that will lead to its natural death.


People Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS)
PDOIS performed abysmally poor in the just concluded LG polls. The seven seats that it grabbed shows how much work the party has to put in place to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. What is just happening to PDOIS? Is the party sticking to a strategy that continues to deliver the undesired results? Is a change of strategy and focus needed for the country’s second oldest party? Why has the party won just one seat in Banjul despite having a National Assembly Member there? How is it possible that it didn’t win more seats in Kanifing? Going forward, I think the party needs a lot of restructuring and more marketable and winning strategies that will be enticing to the electorate. It’s about time that this is acknowledged as a serious bottleneck and be diagnosed. Failing to examine this and change strategy will have the party at a losing end into all future polls.


National Reconciliation Party
The NRP has also recorded one of its worst political performances. Winning just five seats throughout the country is an indictment on the party’s leadership. It shows the enormous task at hand for this party. Despite being a key coalition government member and a strong leadership presence in the National Assembly, the party has not delivered the desired results.


The Gambia Moral Congress
The red party has made zero performance in this election. After a well organised congress that drew its delegates across the country, my thoughts were that the GMC was ready for a major showdown in the future elections. I thought that they were galvanised and would henceforth make their mark in our politics. But seeing it consoled itself with just a seat is very painful for a party that is trying to rebrand.


People’s Progressive Party
Just like the GMC, PPP cannot think that the status quo must remain the same with just a seat. Being the oldest political party in the country, it carries a lot of significance. It led The Gambia to independence and dominated our politics for more than three decades. Just like the PDOIS, this party also needs good restructuring and better strategies for any political influence in the future. Else it will just be at the mercy of alliances and coalitions.


Biggest losers
The biggest losers in this election are the Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP) and National Convention Party (NCP). It is sad to see these parties come out of the polls with just dusts. These parties need reality checks and serious evaluation of the essence of their existence. If I were the leader of one of these parties, I would have simply tendered my resignation at dawn for a more energetic leadership to lift the party. The best they could do is merging as one political party or simply integrating with one of the bigger parties. That’s their only chance. A failure to have even one ward to their name is unacceptable in a democracy where the ground is leveled for their participation.

Views expressed above are mine in my capacity as a private citizen.

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