(Updates with statement from Ecowas in seventh paragraph.)
Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Gambian President Yahya Jammeh may extend his 17-year rule of the West African nation in a presidential election tomorrow, benefitting from a fractured opposition that has struggled to challenge his leadership.
Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, won three subsequent votes that followed a 1996 constitutional reform that ended military rule. He faces Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party, and Hamat Bah, an independent candidate backed by a coalition of four opposition parties.
“Jammeh is the overwhelming favorite,” Ashley Elliott, an analyst with London-based Control Risks, said in an e-mailed note Nov. 21. “His life has been made easier by the opposition’s failure to unite behind a single candidate.”
During his rule, Jammeh has sought to bolster tourism, the biggest foreign-currency earner in Gambia, which is surrounded on three sides by Senegal and sits along the Atlantic-Ocean coast. Led by visitors from the U.K. and the Netherlands, tourism accounts for 16 percent of gross domestic product, according to the website of the National Planning Commission.
Gambia’s GDP per capita of $430 is less than half the average in sub-Saharan Africa of $1,127, according to the World Bank. It ranks 168 out of 187 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which measures indicators including life expectancy and income.
Amnesty International, the U.K.-based rights group, says Jammeh’s government has curbed political freedoms and abused human rights, including through extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances. In 2007, Jammeh’s claim that he could cure AIDS was rejected by groups including the World Health Organization.
The Economic Community of West African States refused to send an observer mission to monitor the Gambian vote, saying the preparations and political environment are not “conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls,” according to a statement published on its website.
Almost 800,000 people in a nation of 1.8 million are registered to cast a vote by dropping a marble in a drum bearing the name of a candidate, according to the Independent Electoral Commission.
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