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The 2012 legislative elections took place in The Gambia on March 29. At stake were 48 seats in the National Assembly. In the National Assembly, 48 members are elected by plurality vote in single-member constituencies to serve 5-year terms and 5 members are appointed by the president to serve 5-year terms.

The main parties were the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), whose leader, Yahiya A.J.J.Jammeh is the current chief of state and head of government; and the United Front, who won zero seats in this election. The APRC won 43 votes and the National Reconciliation Party won 1 seat. 4 seats went to independents.[i]

Women Representation

Women in Gambia are under represented in the top hierarchy of decision making positions. The factors that hinder women’s advancement and leadership are identified as low levels of education and training, socio-cultural factors and poverty. Women constitute 51 % of the population and their fertility rate is 6.1. Most of the women live in the rural areas and are engaged in agricultural production, food processing and marketing. They are thus the main producers of food. Despite their huge investments in food production, women constitute 70% of the unskilled agricultural labor force. Land in the rural areas is scarce due to factors like environmental degradation, lack of access and control to land by women.

Women constitute 51% of the population but their numerical strength is not reflected in the number of positions they hold in the public sphere of decision making. In the civil service they are 21% of the work force of whom majority are employed in administrative and support positions rather than in managerial (UN 2005, Common Country Assessment the Gambia).

Women constitute 58% of voters and they exercise their franchise during elections. In the 2006 elections for the National Assembly of 54 members, only 1 woman was elected through the ballot box, 1 was returned unopposed and 3 were nominated (Electoral Report 2006). Female representation in the National Assembly is 13 % and falls far below that recommended by the Inter Parliamentary Union and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Defying the Odds

Up to 2011, five (5) women have held the position of Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly at one point in time. As of December 2011, only 7.5% of the Gambian National Assembly are female, representing four women out of fifty-three members of the Assembly of which one is the Deputy Speaker.

All Africa reports that Bintanding Jarju of Foni Brefett was the one female candidate to run in this year’s legislative election. Jarju said if elected, for which she was optimistic, she would make Foni “second to none” depending on the availability of resources. Jarjue insisted that she intended to influence donors, NGOs and government to bring projects to the “doorsteps of her people.”[ii]

"I struggle to come up in the 1st place as a female candidate only to serve as a role model for the female candidate to come up. Is unfortunate that the female are lacking behind and I will do all I can to encourage them and convince them before I retire", she remarked.[iii]

Challenges and Obstacles

Due to a 50% illiteracy rate in The Gambia, the method for voting involves dropping a marble into a box that rings a bell the each time a marble drops so as to prevent voter fraud through multiple voting. Six opposition parties boycotted the elections saying that the APRC had an unfair advantage, criticizing how the APRC used their ruling status to use the government and the military to tilt election sin their favor. [iv]25 ruling APRC candidates ran unopposed and were automatically admitted to the assembly.[v]

Why aren’t there more women elected into Parliament? A closer look into political party representations would highlight gender bias and unequal gender representation. It is important to adopt the 30% quota system for women to gain a significant number of female representatives. The selection processes in political parties are also obstacles to women vying for Parliamentary seats. Women in political parties have been strong mobilizers for their parties but have not been selected as candidates for their party’s campaigns.

Six opposition parties in The Gambia decided not to put up candidates for the 2012 National Assembly elections. The reasons published in the local newspapers include the unlevel playing fields and the manifestation of public support for the ruling party amongst officials of government institutions that are supposed to be neutral. Only one opposition party had vied for seats but none of their candidates were women. Therefore no woman from the other opposition parties came out to compete for the 2012 legislative election. There was only one female independent candidate for 2012[vi].

Results

The 2012 National Assembly election is a foregone case in gender representation. If the nomination is anything to go by, the next National Assembly will have an increase in elected female representation. There will be four elected women. Hopefully if the Head of State follows the constitutional mandate to nominate at least two more women, then the percentage of women in the Gambian Parliament will increase to 11.3%. Now it is time for the political parties to seize the opportunity to increase the participation of women in the upcoming local government elections[vii].



                                           Representation of the Political Participation of Women

Political Participation 

As of 2011 

2012 Legislative/ Paliamentary Elections 

Female Parliamentary Candidates 

Unsure

Four women candidates, one independent, one representing the APRC and the NRP, none from the opposition party.

Females Securing Seats in Parliament 

4/53 or 8.3%* 

3 women[viii] have been nominated but the final results are still unsure.

X/53 seats-to be confirmed. Estimated results 6/53 or 11/3 %

 


* At stake in this election were 48 seats in the National Assembly[ix] however 5 additional seats are directly appointed.


Breakdown of Vote According to Party List

Party 

Number of Votes 

% of Votes 

Number of Seats (48)*** 

Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) 

80,289 

51.82% 

43 

National Reconciliation Party (NRP) 

14,606 

9.43% 

1 

Independents 

60,055 

38.76% 

4

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