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The ‘silent majority’ may determine who becomes Gambia’s next president

The 'silent majority' may determine who becomes Gambia's next president

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Crowd wheeling is becoming no longer a parameter to determine a winning presidential candidate in The Gambia’s political space. Past observations show that the silent majority (mostly of those who do not manifest their loyalty to any political party) have been gaining the upper hand in the determination of a winning candidate.

With a population of just under 2 million people, Gambians will be heading to the polls this weekend for presidential election; first time since the fall of former president Yahya Jammeh who is now in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

In this opinion piece, I intend to bring forth the role of the silent majority in modern Gambian politics and their potential in garnering more votes for a presidential candidate.

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The silent majority is an undetermined large group who do not express their opinions publicly. The term was popularised by former US president Richard Nixon in a televised address on 3rd November 1969, in which he said, “And so tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support.” In this usage, the silent majority it referred to were those Americans who did not join in the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the time, who did not join in the counterculture, and who did not participate in public discourse. Nixon, along with many others, saw this group of Middle Americans as being overshadowed in the media by the more vocal minority.

Unfortunately in the case of The Gambia, analysts and the media usually, if not always, oversighted what I also call in this article the “silent majority” in their analysis of the country’s political discourse. They usually focus on the moving crowd and the political chitchat during campaigns to determine the possibility of who becomes president.

Now, there is becoming quite a bit of distance between wheeling crowd, praise-singing and noise-making politics and the group of silent majority in Gambian politics. There is a silent majority in this country and they could be the overwhelming group to determine a winning candidate in the 4th December presidential election. And as long as the six candidates and their electorate cannot see this — as long as they hold to the belief and confidence of winning because of the crowd that follow them — they and their campaigns will continue to act in ways that may diminish their chance of any legitimate victory on 4th December.

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Considering the Gambian political practice and the eleventh-hour decision making by many voters, crowd politics could only be a secondary determining factor for victory. Many Gambian electorate usually decide their vote fidelity in the voting room. 

As opposed to voters’ decision in other countries to cast their votes for the candidate of their choice based on their manifestos on range of issues including tax reforms, improved living standards, job creation and foreign policies, a good number of Gambians decide on their votes based on personal and relative standards, leading to disappointments.

As the political atmosphere evolves in The Gambia, probably starting from the last few years of former President Jammeh’s tenure in office, there are now direct fears and anxieties about tribalism, crime and rapid cultural change, as well as the resentments in party politics that is sneaking in to overturn the existing social order.

Most of this “silent majority” is worried about crime and disorder and violent politics which is now becoming widespread. What the silent majority does not manifest is their position on policies of the present administration and how they view any newly incoming government may handle its administration. Although the silent majority has no undeviating view of how to handle issues like rising crime rate, high taxation and rising cost on common goods, particularly on food items, they usually observe fear of hostile rhetoric and draconian policies.

With the current political power struggle, the country is packed with “cautious” majority who are just waiting for the right time to reveal themselves by only going to the voting room and cast their votes and return home silently and wait for the results.

Amadou Jallow is a journalist, youth and child empowerment and community development advocate.  He is studying Human Resource Management at Management Development Institute. He is a programme and communication officer for Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities.

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