The crushing defeat of the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) in the capital city, Banjul, the nation’s business hub, KMC and the provincial capital, Brikama, in the most contested mayoral and chairmanship elections, sent shockwaves through the party and beyond.
NPP has heavily invested to pull a win in the above bustling and densely populated urban metropolises, for they are considered the country’s heartbeat and powerhouses, especially KMC. As such, the Party tapped Youth and Sports Minister Bakary Badjie as the party’s candidate, considering his popularity as a youth leader and a former nominated councillor.
In addition, President Adama Barrow, who doubles as NPP Party leader, joined the campaign trail accompanied by his top officials, including some political operatives serving as diplomats, to galvanize support for the party’s candidates, with state machinery firmly behind them. In the process, NPP missed no opportunity to mercilessly lash out at the incumbent mayors of Banjul and Kanifing, arguing that they have little to show for their people after five years at the helm of the two municipalities. The defeat comes hot on the heels of a humbling performance by NPP in the recently concluded council election, which saw the party losing ground in Kanifing Municipal Council and Brikama Area Council, entrenching a trend that surfaced in the parliamentary polls.
Following the defeat in the council election, the NPP stalwarts scrambled to justify the low performance attributing it to low turnout due to Ramadan coupled with the fact that the voters were not sensitized enough about the importance of that election. The party officials affirmed that they had learned their lesson, vowing that the mistake would not be repeated. Analysts have attributed NPP’s consistently low performance to cracks within the party, coupled with the challenging living conditions, including skyrocketing prices of essential commodities and the recent hike in energy costs amid spiral inflation. They, therefore, dubbed the election as a referendum on Barrow himself.
Gambian voters have become politically conscious, strategically choosing the candidate they believe would deliver. Gone are the times when empty promises carried away voters, and the electorate must no longer be taken for granted. The President and his party need to go back to the drawing table to thoroughly find out what has gone wrong since the presidential elections in 2021 because it seems the electorate cast a protest vote. The Gambian leader must take the bull by the horns by making the necessary changes at both government and party levels to stand any chance of shifting the trend in favour of his legacy.
It’s abundantly clear that the mayoral and chairmanship election ushered in a new era in Gambia’s geopolitics. The absolute dominance of the ruling party, as was the case in the first and second republics, is over. The stakes can’t be higher, for the outcome of this election could provide hints about the upcoming 2026 presidential election. Gambia’s democracy has won again, and everybody should be heartily congratulated.