Gambia's incumbent President Adama Barrow secured his reelection in the first vote for decades held without long-term leader Yahya Jammeh.
Barrow received around 53% of Saturday's vote, with his main rival Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) getting 28%, according to results from the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced Sunday.
Barrow's victory, however, has already been contested by four opposition leaders with concerns about an "inordinate delay” in the announcement of the results.
With a vote that set the bar for a new chapter in the West African nation’s democracy, it was the country’s first presidential election in decades that did not include former dictator Yahya Jammeh, who now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after losing the 2016 election and refuses to accept defeat.
The chairperson of the IEC, Alieu Mommar Njie, announced the results and prayed for peace to prevail in the nation of about 2.4 million people.
"I hereby declare Adama Barrow duly elected to serve as president of the Republic of the Gambia,” he said, after indicating that the National People’s Party (NPP) emerged victorious with 457,519 of the votes cast. Darboe of the UDP, on the other hand, got 238,253 votes, he noted.
Supporters of Barrow celebrated after partial results of the presidential elections showed him leading in Banjul city.
Demba Sabally, who represented the NPP at the election house, said the presidential election was transparent and fair and added: "The Gambia is the winner of this election.”
Gambian opposition rejects early election results
Polls closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday in Gambia's peaceful elections. Although the electoral officials said that the election was fair, the results have already been contested by four opposition leaders, including Darboe and Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) leader Mama Kandeh, who on Sunday held a press briefing to challenge the credibility of the vote.
Flanked by independent candidate Essa Mbye Faal and Kandeh, Darboe read a joint statement on Sunday rejecting the electoral commission's results announcement and urged Gambians to remain calm while investigations continue.
UDP supporters claim that the results are rigged in favor of Barrow, although they did not immediately provide any evidence for the accusation.
Barrow said after the vote that while he was expecting a "landslide triumph," he was willing to "accept the results."
The opposition has the right to petition the results before the Supreme Court within 10 days. There are fears that the objections could result in violence.
'Opposition needs evidence to back claims'
Campaigner Banka Manneh told The Associated Press (AP) that he would not deny the opposition leaders their right to protest. But, he added: "They need to provide the evidence of their claims. The courts are here to settle the dispute.”
Thousands of people stormed Westfield Youth Monument, located in the heart of Serrekunda, to celebrate Barrow’s reelection.
"President Barrow is a man of peace. We have to give him a chance to continue his development projects,” Modou Ceesay, 36, a resident of New Jeshwang, told AP.
Fatou Faal of Kanifing told AP that Gambians did the "right thing in giving Barrow a chance to complete the development projects he initiated.”
Nearly 860,000 Gambians came to vote on Saturday, a high number that shows a determination for many to exercise their democratic rights as demands for justice in the post-Jammeh era rise.
Barrow emerged victorious in 2016 as the candidate for an opposition coalition that tested the 22-year rule of Jammeh. After initially agreeing to step down, Jammeh resisted, and a six-week crisis saw neighboring West African countries prepare to send in troops to stage a military intervention. Jammeh was forced into exile.
Jammeh’s two-decade rule was marked by arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and summary executions that were revealed through dramatic testimony during Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission hearings that lasted for years.
Previously, the commission handed its 17-volume report to Barrow, urging him to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are prosecuted.
Barrow has vowed to fight for justice for the victims.