Why UDP lost the 2021 presidential election

Why UDP lost the 2021 presidential election

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By Assan Jallow

In an election, every candidate wishes to be crowned champion once the results are tabulated, collated, and announced by a country’s independent electoral commission (IEC). Electoral defeats are devastating in many ways, for example, it lowers the morale of candidates and casts doubt on their future campaigns. For the fifth time in our nation’s history and electoral cycle, the United Democratic Party has lost the presidency, despite the fact that the party was able to mobilize resources from its diasporan base to finance the campaign. Although, it is interesting to note that the UDP has been on a steady decline in absolute terms since 1996 as it continues on its downward cyclical trend of constantly losing votes, which further decreases its percentage values. Following is a list of reasons for the UDP’s shocking defeat to Barrow’s NPP:

1. The party fails to assert to the public that it is a national party and not a regional or ethnically-driven political party. That is by failing to articulate its purpose and political values to the electorate.

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2. Pursuing an exclusionist policy by recruiting its party militants, sympathizers, and members to fill government positions by disregarding qualifications, competencies, experience, skills, and knowledge as outlined in the rules of the public service commission (PSC). The foreign service was flooded with party members, which undermined the party’s position and made it seem unlikely it would be able to implement its stated policy on inclusive government, which stood in direct opposition to what it was actually trying to achieve. The citizens felt betrayed and alienated by the UDP, and it was evident in the results of this year’s presidential election.

3. The party’s early days in government were characterized by inconsistent policies. The party operated as a shadow government, so they did not listen to the cries of citizens and pulled strings with deaf ears. The most consequential decision was when its leader ANM Ousainu Darboe threatened to sack all the teachers who took part in a public protest on low pay and welfare schemes. Therefore, the UDP has only itself to blame, since the people have become so disenchanted and disillusioned with the state of affairs when UDP was in power and are under the impression that the party will retaliate or revenge when it gains power.

4. The UDP campaign was poorly run because its leader ANM Ousainu Darboe failed to present a compelling vision for the party during the party’s political campaign. Due to the polycentric nature of the UDP campaign, his message was neither convincing nor winning hearts as it alienated voters. For example, the party’s campaign was over-reliance on ethnic politics, patronage politics, and sectional interests, rather than the national interest, as well as getting swayed by people on crowd competition, attacking Barrow’s government left, right, and center, and insults rather than its five-point agenda, unity in diversity, and how the party would govern differently. Consequently, the party’s leader attacked the Serahules by stating that they didn’t support Barrow in 2016 and citing the Fulas as an example when he stated that “if the UDP was headed by a Fula, no one will dare say that it is a Fula political party. And, why saying it is a Mandinka party” was quite contradictory and confusing, and not expected from its leader during a political campaign, particularly in seeking the people’s mandate. Using a tribal tag with examples of such during election times are damningly consequential as people will measure the content of the message and the expressed tone of the person conveying it.

5. There is no doubt that the UDP outspent the NPP, but its broad spectrum of media advertising and advertorials gave the party an overly inflated impression that didn’t cut it with voters. The party made a costly mistake by refusing to participate in the IEC time on television to convey their message, demanding that their messages be unreviewed and unedited. Additionally, the party decided to take its media campaign and coverage across the border, using Senegalese television (TFM) instead of Gambian media houses or established televisions. By failing to use our media channels as a vehicle for their message, they affronted the principles of nationalism.

6. The party is riddled with some of the most notorious cyberbully supporters and surrogates who use social media to smear, innuendo, and attack those who disagree with the UDP, and the party remains indifferent or fails to condemn this type of behavior, thus causing the party so dearly of potential new political converts.

7. The failure of the party to internalize democratic principles and insisting that ANM Ousainu Darboe will continue to be the party’s candidate for the presidential election. Thus, denying the brightest within the party an opportunity to participate in and contest under the UDP ticket.