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Gambians would today (Saturday) head to the polls in the first presidential election in the tiny West African nation since former dictator Yahya Jammeh fled into exile.
Africa Daily News, New York can confirm that the elections will be closely watched as a test of the democratic transition in the country, where Jammeh held sway for 22 years after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994.
The former dictator was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017 after Adama Barrow, then a relatively unknown defeated him at the ballot box.
President Barrow, 56, is now running for re-election, and faces five other candidates.
Political veteran Ousainou Darboe is considered the leading opposition candidate.
The 73-year-old is a lawyer who has represented opponents of Jammeh, and who ran for president against the former dictator several times.
He also served as foreign minister and then vice president under Barrow, before stepping down in 2019.
Many voters in the impoverished nation of more than two million people are hoping for an improvement in their living standards.
According to the World Bank, about half of the population live on less than $1.90 per day.
The tourism-dependent economy in the former British colony was also dealt a severe blow by the Covid pandemic.
Barrow is running on a continuity ticket, pointing to infrastructure projects completed under his watch, as well as increased civil liberties.
Each candidate has their own ballot box at Gambian polls, and voters choose their preferred politician by dropping a marble inside one of the boxes.
The unusual voting method is a response to low literacy rates in the country.
Africa Daily News, New York expects that initial results in the one-round presidential election could start trickling in as early as Sunday.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK