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Can a candidate win an election in The Gambia when the majority of the voters didn’t vote for them?

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Claim: A Twitter user claims an election can be won in The Gambia even when the majority of the electorates do not vote for a candidate.

Section 81 of The Gambia Elections Act , Chapter 3:01, Decree No.78 of 1996, specifies that the candidate with the greatest number of votes is the elected candidate. 

Full Text

With all eyes on the December 4 2021 election that will see six candidates contest for the presidency of the smallest West African nation of The Gambia, social media has been playing an integral role in the entire electioneering process. Young people and political parties in the country have actively been using social media platforms to contribute to debates and discussions as well as campaign to voters. Twitter is one social media platform that has been used by Gambians to communicate issues surrounding the forthcoming general elections. 

In this tweet, one Twitter user claims a candidate does not need to be voted for by the majority of the populace to win an election.

“Do you know you can win elections in the Gambia when the majority of the populace didn’t vote for you? This so-called single majority should be removed from our law books. It makes little sense tbh,” he tweeted.

This assertion by this Twitter post provoked a series of questions in the comment section with people asking how that could be possible and others requesting that he elaborate on the statement as it made little or no sense to them. 

“Eg From the 900K registered voters, party A scores 400K while the 500K is shared by the other parties 5, it means party A wins even though the majority of the voters didn’t vote for it,” was the claimant’s response. 

Verification

First, it must be noted that per the constitution of The Gambia Part V Section 39(1) and The Gambia Elections Act, Chapter 3:01, only registered voters, not the entire populace, are eligible to vote to elect a president.

How Many Votes Does A Candidate Need To Become President Of The Gambia?

Section 81 of The Gambia Elections Act, Chapter 3:01, Decree No.78 of 1996, specifies that the candidate with the greatest number of votes is the elected candidate.

“The commission shall as soon as practicable on receipt of election results declare the results and elect the candidate, or in the case of a list of candidates the number on the list in accordance to section 79 (equal number of votes), who received the greatest number of votes.”

What Is This Simple Majority Electoral System?

The simple majority also referred to as the first-past-the-post system, is an electoral system that allows a candidate who scored the highest number of votes among candidates in an election to be declared winner. The winner does not need to score the majority of the votes cast. Whilst it may not require the overall majority of the votes cast in an election or a winning percentage, it lays premium and emphasis on the candidate scoring the highest number of votes amongst other candidates. The system is practised by some other countries around the world like Malawi and The United States. The simple majority indicates that one candidate must have obtained the most votes than any other candidate did individually in an election.

How This Played Out In The December 2016 Gambian Elections

In December 2016, Gambians went to the poll to cast their votes in an election that ousted the authoritarian reign of former President Yayah Jammeh, which spanned over two decades. This created the space for a democratic transition that brought opposition leader Adama Barrow to power with the United Democratic Party (UDP) party. President Adama Barrow scored a total of 227, 708 votes while Jammeh had 208, 847 votes and the third candidate, Mama Kandeh, securing 89,769 total votes cast as seen in the official results by the Independent Electoral Commission. While President Barrow’s 227,708 scored 43% of the total votes cast in his favour, he won because he secured more votes than his competitors.

Conclusion

The simple majority system also referred to as the plurality system makes it possible for a candidate who receives the highest number of votes amongst other candidates to be declared winner. It is, therefore, true that one can win an election in The Gambia when the majority of the population did not vote for you but secured more votes than each of the other candidates that aspired, as mandated by the simple majority system.

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