Gambia Election Committee Says Jammeh Lost Presidential Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Gambia’s electoral commission said President Yahya Jammeh, who has ruled the tiny West African nation for 22 years, was defeated by opposition leader Adama Barrow with a margin of more than 50,000 votes.

The electoral commission announced on state television Friday that Barrow, who is backed by a group of opposition parties, received 263,515 votes, while Jammeh got 212,099 votes. Jammeh was seeking a fifth term and had predicted an easy victory in the country of less than 2 million people.

The announcement prompted hundreds of Gambian to take to the streets and celebrate by brandishing flags and campaign posters as police patrolled in the capital, Banjul. “This is really extraordinary,” said a young woman who gave her name as Mariam. “We were never able to celebrate like this.”

Jammeh conceded defeat and congratulated Barrow in a separate broadcast on state television, France24 reported.

About 800,000 people were registered to vote. Barrow’s victory marks the first time that Gambia changes its leader through the ballot since gaining independence from Britain in 1965.

Stifling Dissent

Criticized by human rights groups for brutally stifling dissent, jailing journalists and executing prisoners, Jammeh seized power in a 1994 coup and obtained landslide victories in four previous polls.

Barrow, a 51-year-old former security guard, took over as head of the United Democratic Party after its founder, Ousainou Darboe, was sentenced to three years in jail in July for organizing a rare protest march. Barrow was backed by seven other opposition parties.