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Letters: How and why the opposition in Gambia lost!

Letters: How and why the opposition in Gambia lost!

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When the incumbent, Adama Barrow, sought his alliance with the APRC of Yahya Jammeh, we called it a misstep and a vote loser.

It did not cross our mind then that Barrow is not only working with former associates and employees of ex-president Yahya Jammeh, but would learned from them how to copy Jammeh’s politics of voter inducement.

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Barrow’s predecessor, we know, used coercion, intimidation and fear, as well as inducement to win elections and prolong his stay in power. For obvious reasons, Barrow could only use the weapon of inducement.

Voter inducement is defined as “something that is given to somebody to persuade them to do something” – such as financial and other material inducements, usually given to the electorate well before Election Day.

However, under Barrow, it must have been carried to unprecedented levels, and this may explain why he spoke so confidently of a “landslide win unprecedented in the history of this country”, after casting his vote in Banjul in Saturday’s election.

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Voter inducement is a way of rigging the vote, which does not necessarily happen on Election Day – at the voting centers and during vote counting – but usually happens well before.

Indeed, it is common knowledge that elections are rigged well before voting day; also, that rigging takes many forms and is done in many ways.

The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines the word “rig” (a verb as well as a noun) as follows: “to arrange or influence something in a dishonest way in order to get the result that you want”.

An example of usage is: “He said the election had been rigged”. The word “rigging” is defined as “the act of influencing something in a dishonest was in order to get the result that you want”. “Vote rigging” is an example o f usage.

Definitely, that voters countrywide were targeted for inducement may, among other factors, explain the huge votes Candidate Barrow received in constituencies across the length and breath of the country.

It should also account for the winning margins between Barrow and the others, and the 200, 000 plus votes between the declared winner and the first runner-up.

And, talking of winning margins, it is true that the huge gap between the President-elect and his challengers translates into a “landslide”; which is described as “an election in which one person or party gets very many more votes than the other people or parties.”

However, Barrow’s 53.2 percent is not what you would call a “landslide”; as it is just over half in terms of a percentage of the overall votes cast.

Moreover, Yahya Jammeh received around the same – just over 50 percent – when he was declared the winner in one particular presidential election.

From the election results, we now see that the perceptible unprecedented voter inducement translated into ‘unprecedented” crowds at Barrow’s campaign rallies, as well as the massive voting for the incumbent countrywide.

Overt and covert inducements, obviously, would have started long before, but were manifest in the use of the Covid 19 funds, from the national budget and external aid, to deliver Covid-related support to the around 800,000 beneficiaries.

There was also the assistance for nutritional support provided under a NaNA project, targeting hundreds of vulnerable households in the regions.

With eyes set on the looming presidential election, and in a country with rampant mass poverty; several months ago, the Covid 19-related aid and the financial support given to women and vulnerable rural families, were used to win the hearts and minds of a general public amenable to being successfully induced by partisan interests.

We have all seen how public funds from the national budget, including the supplementary appropriations, were being utilized to embark on projects such as the Hakalong road in Nuimi; and, then Barrow turns round to claim that it’s proof of his govt’s commitment to the voters’ welfare.

What about using the meet-the-people tours, mandated by the constitution and funded by the treasury, to campaign for his re-election?

Also, how about Barrow exploiting donor support, such as the Chinese grants for his “roads and bridges” projects in URR, which Barrow told Gambians were realized through his efforts as the president.

And, still talking about inducement, we saw a candidate – after casting his vote in Serekunda – emotionally lamenting to reporters that the future of Gambian youths would be compromised, should money politics take hold in the country.

There is also the case of a prominent imam and Muslim elder, who in a video said he endorsed Barrow because, among other things, Barrow gave money to the supreme Islamic council, which he said was an unprecedented gesture from a sitting president.

Clearly, the Barrow presidency seems to be associated with the “unprecedented” – drawing mammoth crowds during the election campaign, huge voter turnout at the polls, and unprecedented win at the level of various constituencies – which definitely are a result of unprecedented levels of inducing the population.

It is apparent that even under the coercive government of the APRC, Yahya Jammeh was not known to receive the “unprecedented” votes Barrow got.

 By Alf Soninke

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