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Prediction: President Barrow will win the December 4th election

Prediction: President Barrow will win the December 4th election

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My prediction is based largely on hypothesised assumptions of my designed constructs based on the current political climate in The Gambia. I predict without a shadow of a doubt that President Barrow will win the 2021 presidential election with fairly high margins, holding all factors constant.

This year’s presidential election will be one of the most keenly contested in the history of elections in The Gambia as over 22 political parties and independent candidates could be running for the presidency. The dynamics might change as the IEC plans to start the nomination process in November and the probability is that the number will decrease as many vying for the presidency might be disqualified based on four factors: a conviction of serving a jail term in prison; holding citizenship of another country; the dilemma of Section 62 of the 1997 Constitution regarding the contentious issue of dismissal from a public office; and the issue of residency. The Supreme Court of The Gambia would have to be called into play to interpret the ambiguities of the law.

The margin of Barrow’s victory in percentages and numbers will be quite substantial for the following reasons because numbers don’t lie in African politics.

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1.   Based on the incumbency model, President Barrow will be re-elected. According to this model, voters gravitate to incumbents based on prevailing circumstances as they have garnered greater attention and recognition than their opponents. It is a known fact that people vote based on tribe, patronage, and regionalism where a political base is critical and any political party or independent candidate without a strong political base cannot be a strong contender.

Distinctively, voters in African politics resonate well with people they see and hear often, and in this context, President Barrow has been able to meet his constituents more often than his competitors, thus engaging them with his campaign. Therefore, President Barrow has one main advantage over his opponents or challengers, which is the ability to present his candidacy with realistic deliverables and results over time and for being tested in office over some time, and for proving his level of commitment and, competence in delivering the people’s mandate.

Additionally, incumbents are harder to unseat since they have more campaign finance and government resources at their disposal. Nonetheless, the power of incumbency has been tested, as we have seen incumbents unseated in elections both in Africa and the West, for example in Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, the United States, the Philippines, France, Italy, Finland, Guatemala, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Benin, Cape Verde, Czechoslovakia, Malawi, Central Africa Republic, Poland, Senegal, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Somalia and Guinea Bissau.

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2.   In comparison to others, Barrow appeals to a broader political base of fervent followers and supporters. The reason for this can be credited to his indisputable leadership charisma derived from his innate talent for facilitating conversations with audiences owing to his evident sense of humility, respect, good listening abilities, demeanour, candour, and acumen. This has made him the darling of many people who trust and believe he is the best candidate among the challengers.

3. In light of Jammeh’s recent remarks regarding the NPP-APRC alliance, President Barrow’s popularity has increased and his support base has grown. Hence, it appears that Jammeh’s move is a blessing in disguise for Barrow as it has been exposed through the politically motivated grapevine that there was no established communication between Barrow and Jammeh, let alone any possible amnesty for the former president. This illustrated that Barrow was not in bed with Jammeh and revealed that the groups of misfits have a profound and deeply ingrained hatred of Barrow as a person. In my opinion, this has opened up a new goldmine opportunity for Barrow since many who are sceptical will see the traffic of manufactured lies, smears, and innuendos advanced by the opposition parties and politically conflicted activists castigating Barrow with vitriol. Undecided voters will rally behind him and get him re-elected on December 4th.

4.   The proliferation of new political parties and independent candidates vying for the presidency will have a domino effect on the UDP, PDOIS, GDC, and GMC political parties. It is undeniable that the opening of the political space advances our democratic pluralism and multipartyism. The truth is that the new entrants will likely pull substantial votes from the aforementioned political parties, particularly from the UDP. The reason is that Barrow’s NPP has pulled out a substantial number of its members from the UDP and this suffices that the UDP won’t be able to leverage its political capital due to the stated reason. 

5. The polarised political climate where partisan and identity politics has become the new currency, thus overshadowing the politics of conversation on issue-based to the altar of hate, insults, and division will drift in a competitive advantage for Barrow with strategic leverage for his NPP camp garnering votes from camps of all the presidential hopefuls. This is because many have seen him and his NPP as the most desirable place to gravitate than in the opposition parties, where there is noticeable infighting and hijacked internal democracy.

6.   The opposition has failed to work with the government of Barrow in all spheres of development, particularly when disaster wreaks havoc on the country and the people see signs of evidential truths indicating unwillingness from the opposition with the intent to undermine the government’s efforts in national development. Principal among these is the outbreak of the Covid-19 and the recent windstorms that killed many people and destroyed homes. Apportioning blame to the government by the opposition gives the voter the premonition of doubt and sincerity of these governments-in-waiting from the pool of opposition parties. This further provides Barrow the winning edge and credibility as a formidable force of hope in responding to the needs of citizens, despite limited resources to mitigate problems, hence listening to their concerns and finding alternative ways to address their challenges.

Policy responsiveness is critical in political governance and recently we have seen President Barrow supporting policies that are congruent with the wishes and aspirations of his constituents, and this alone provides the assurances of a tentative winning spree of his reelection bid.

7. Despite representing one of the most formidable opposition parties, Darboe appeals to a narrow political base. The reason for this shift in dynamics is a result of his recent attacks on Sarahules and Fulas, which pulverises any possibility of him winning an election in The Gambia. What this implies is that Darboe continues to demonstrate a questionable leadership capability of whether he will become a president of all tribes or not as in him there is a missing trait of a unifier. The resultant effects of this are due to his weakness generated through ineffective poor communication strategies and the inability to hold a conversation or understand one’s audience in many of his public announcements.

Interesting to note, Darboe has a credibility and trust issue as he was accused of tax evasion which alone casts a question as to whether he will honour the payment of taxes in his administration if Gambians give him the chance to become the next president.

He is accused of being the mastermind that destroyed and frustrated the reforms agenda of Coalition 2016 as he pursued partisan politics and hijacked the Coalition 2016 government by installing and hiring his party militants and surrogates into government positions as a form of compensation and not playing to the rules of meritocracy, ethics, and professionalism in government employment. So a lot of voters are asking whether he will continue with that trend if given the chance of becoming The Gambia’s next president.

8.  There’s a disunited opposition and everyone wants to lead and no one wants to follow. This protracted disunity has polarised a nation that is being hijacked by the forces of identity politics, hate, insults, and division and not one driven with citizens’ engagement to debate on the issues and policies, centered on burning development challenges that will advance the course of our development to sustain the dividends of democracy and good governance.

9.   Another issue that stands out in Barrow’s re-election is the significant downward trend of the UDP under the leadership of Darboe over the past successive elections from 1996 through 2011. Despite coalition efforts of the 2016 election, the UDP continued a perpetual downtrend with no absolute improvement since its establishment. And, with the emerging splinter groups, the UDP will further witness a reduction in votes. That is all these new political parties and independent candidates will take away some numbers from the UDP camp. That is the gospel truth and it is undeniable.

10. Regarding percentages, President Barrow will pull 39 to 43 percent of the votes and the opposition will be scrambling with the remaining percentages. Based on this, the UDP will get 29%, GDC 11%, PDOIS 8%, CA 2%, and the remaining 7% will be shared among the other competing smaller parties and independent presidential candidates. However, this is not a conclusive disposition. Events might change depending on the dynamics of the power play of politics as we head towards the nomination and the campaign proper, where many undecided voters will be gravitating or leaning towards political parties or independent presidential hopefuls whose policies and programmes reflect with their needs and aspirations. Consequently, how it plays out during the campaign trail will make many lose faith in some of the hopeful presidential candidates. To provide a historical context of presidential elections, the below table gives the reader a mind’s picture of what the actual results were and how they will play in future elections in The Gambia.

This data suggests that when newer parties are created, there is a significant decrease in numbers and percentage terms as their presence affect major parties as most of them have friends and families in those big political parties and one will begin to see a shift in allegiance and association based on familial relations in our national politics. Parties such as the National Unity Party, Citizens’ Alliance, and the independent candidates will take a large chunk of numbers from the established political parties, whether nominal or significantly higher, which doesn’t matter as it would negatively influence their political capital in seeking the people’s mandate. This effect was even noticed on APRC with the formation of GDC in 2016.

The programmes and policies of some of the emerging political parties such as the free-market policy economy aren’t workable in the Gambian context as they are outside the confines of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable – sometimes agreed).

11.Objectives, disoriented, with questionable KPIs (key performance indicators) that do not reflect the economic realities in the country.

Some of the presidential candidates aren’t ready to learn, diagnose our problems, and present a compelling development vision where growth and shared prosperity thrive. All they are interested in is to occupy No 1 Marina Parade and enjoy the spoils that come with the perks of the presidency to build up the stomach infrastructure of their families and cronies. And, the theories many are proposing in our national discourse are out of touch and a conjecture that is built on the wings of an illusion crafted from a textbook analysis to bait and confuse the citizenry who are easily swayed with words of mouth.

Desiring to govern and governing are completely different, and we need to put in the efforts to learn and understand the dynamics of the political economy and be ready to lead not for the sake of leading by carrying the title and the crown to lead people to hopelessness and destitution, but to make a positive impact on the lives and livelihood of the citizens across the length and breadth of the country.

It is important to understand that the true test of a presidential election is leadership, not campaigning. On that note, Barrow’s achievements in the areas of democracy, the economy, and infrastructure speak for themselves since he took office in 2017. Although, his government continues to face numerous challenges such as corruption and corrupt practices, including the Banjul Road Project, the intercepted cocaine case, the fishing saga of Fisheries permanent secretary Dr Banja, and many others. That is typical of developing economies, and The Gambia is no exception. We must not brush things under the carpet to protect the guilty from accountability by not holding public officials accountable. Nevertheless, we must credit Barrow’s administration for promoting a functional and independent judiciary. Thanks to his government for creating an environment that makes it possible for citizens to trust and use the courts for redress. That is a notable achievement in the country’s governance and democracy as it was missing in our development governance during the 22 years of Jammeh’s rule.

Based on the fact that Barrow has a solemn, strong, and appealing political base and capital that is hard to penetrate, I predict that he will win with the confidence of the people on December 4, 2021. My reasoning is simple because in politics I believe that the game is not won on the field, but rather in the backrooms a long time before it is even played, and in this instance, President Barrow has passed the litmus test of winning.

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