The United Democratic Party (UDP) has issued a statement outlining the three options for the party to participate in the UDP SELECTS ADAMA BARROWforthcoming presidential election on 1 December 2016.

Below is the full UDP statement:



  1. Introduction.

Presidential elections are due in Gambia in December 2016 under an atmosphere where the political environment is highly constricted and the electoral processes decidedly tilted in favor of the incumbent. The proposals for genuine electoral reforms by the oppositions been ignored and instead more draconian electoral laws were introduced with the enactment of Elections Amendment Acts 2015.

Opposition parties are virtually confronted with two mutually difficult questions: To boycott or to participate in the sham elections. The answers to both questions even from the perspectives of personate defenders of elections and ardent critics of no elections until reforms take place actually mean very little to President Yahya Jammeh and his handpicked electoral commission.

For example, participating in the elections will ultimately give the already cornered regime some legitimacy because opposition parties fully aware of the situation, willing took part in the elections notwithstanding that the process is already fraught with fraud and therefore lacks credibility.

On the other hand, even if all the main opposition parties have taken a unanimous position to boycott the elections, the regime will not lack supposed “parties” that would populate the race to appear as if some form of genuine politicking actually took place.

Cognizant of these facts, the UDP has agreed to participate in the presidential elections by possibility forming an alliance/ coalition with other opposition parties against the incumbent. This issue is particularly important for the United Democratic Party (UDP) for three main reasons:

(a) Since its formations, the UDP has been contesting elections in alliance with other smaller parties;

  1. b) The dynamics at play under the current political dispensation have meant that the party has to adjust to the situation in order not to be rendered ineffective and or have its hands tied to the agenda of the other parties; and finally;
  2. c) Effectively managing the expectations of the constituent members of the party while at the same pragmatically assure and allay the fears of our partners (presumed or real) in a manner that does not also diminish the assertiveness of the party.

In any case, the UDP will be tested and tried by our allies through bridle spins and schemes to ultimately force the party into some difficult positions. It is against this background that this position paper is prepared to look at the various options for the party to explore during discussions with its partners on coalition/alliance building.

Aware of the consistent demands for opposition alliance/ coalition, and the tendency at which some parties argue against internationally recognized and acceptable standards of selecting a flag bearer of coalition/alliance, the UDP suggests three options for the consideration in our coalition/ alliance discussion with the other partners.

  1. Party Led Alliance/ Coalition, through a transitional arrangement;
  2. Independent Led Alliance/ Coalition, through a transitional arrangement;
  3. To Go Alone.

 Pre and Post Election Coalition Successes in West Africa:

The primary purpose of a concerted political coalition is to unify the different political parties to defeat entrenched incumbency. The overarching objective of a coalition in the case of the Gambia is to avert the crisis of governance. As the President of the republic continues to plunder the meager resources of the country, the need for a coalition becomes a necessity hence no single party could muster the resources to defeat him. However, party coalitions in Africa are fraught with mixed results.

For example, in the case of Senegal where the second round of voting is sanctioned by the constitution if no party gets more than 50 percent of the votes. In 2000 presidential elections, Abdou Joof received less than 50% of the votes, while Wade received only 31% of the votes. Therefore, the need for second rounds votes. All the other parties formed SOPI coalition with Wade as the presidential candidate. Wade won with 58.49 % of the votes under the banner of the SOPI coalition.

Again, in February 2012, Wade acknowledged that he did not receive the majority of the votes and would have to face a runoff election. The second round of voting was conducted in March of 2012. This time around the opposition parties coalesced under the candidacy of Macky Sall, who easily won with a wide margin, thereby ending the incumbency of Wade.

Although this post-election coalition worked in Senegal, it is not a solution for The Gambia; hence the 1997 constitution requires a simple majority to win the presidency. Therefore, the President has robbed the Gambian oppositions of the rights to form a coalition for the purpose of the second round of voting.

However, Africa as a whole cannot boast of many successes of pre-election coalitions. In 2013, All Progressives Congress (APC) went into a party led coalition with three biggest opposition parties: the Action Congress of Nigeria (ANC), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The result of this party-led coalition was a resounding victory for Muhammadu Buhari who won with more than 2.6 million votes. There by ending the presidency of Good Luck Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party.

In view of these examples, we believe the only solution to defeat Jammeh is a UDP led coalition where all the other opposition parties in the Gambia lend their support to send a resounding message that power belongs to the people.

Notwithstanding the fact that building alliance/coalition of opposition parties especially in Africa is dynamic, there are also certain specificities and standards in building such entities that may not merely be ignored or compromised. These include but not limited to strength, size, experience in the field, level of organization, electability, etc.

If the party is leading such alliance/coalition based on its strength, size, experience in the field and level of organization which all combined would make it easy for the alliance/coalition to win in the elections. This is not only less cumbersome but also internationally recognized as the best option for forming alliance/coalition.

This option should be explored with the understanding that the UDP being the main opposition party in The Gambia, will lead the alliance/ coalition and its Presidential Candidate will lead the coalition/ alliance through a transitional government who will serve for only  a term.

  1. The ministerial positions will be shared among the coalition/ alliance parties;
  2. The constitution of The Gambia will be reviewed and a referendum organized;
  3. A truth and reconciliation commission will be set;
  4. The Independent Electoral Commission will be reorganized and
  5. Credible free and fair elections will be organized.
  6. All the alliance/ coalition partners will contribute to a common campaign fund for the presidential elections which is managed by all the parties.
  7. A legally binding MOU will be signed by all the partners spelling out role and responsibilities and the shared value to advance Gambia’s democratic process.
  8. Tactical alliance would be considered for the National Assembly and Local Government elections.

Furthermore, UDP deserves to lead the transitional alliance or coalition Government on the basis:

  • That the party has consistently secured more votes in every single election than the combined votes of all the other opposition parties in The Gambia;
  • In all the National Assembly Elections the UDP contested, its MPs were more than all the other opposition parties combined;
  • That the UDP is the only party that has active presence in all the administrative regions of the Gambia making it the single biggest opposition party with grassroots based following across the country;
  • That the UDP is the only party that has and continue to publicly challenge both in the courts and in other public fora the excesses of the APRC regime either through its legislations, electoral malpractices or the unlawful actions of its security forces making the party highly visible and consulted both by Gambia’s international development partners and other activist groups around the world concerned about happenings in the country;
  • That the UDP is the only opposition party in the Gambia that has never waited for election season to continue engaging voters and the generality of Gambians on issues related to Gambia’s public good;
  • That the UDP is the biggest party in the Gambia…even bigger than the APRC minus the State and also the only entity in the Gambia today that is exhibiting relevance through issue based politics where the ordinary people are engaged on everything relevant to their livelihood;
  • Also the party has endured and suffered more than any other party in the Gambia in terms of sacrifices, loss of life of its members and also continuous arrest and uncontrolled harassment of its members and officials.

In presenting this proposal, UDP validates the notion that we put country before party and sacrifice before expediency. The proposal envisions a short consideration period not to exceed one week from initiation to vote of adoption and an affirmative rejection of any alternative coalition model that may be proposed as it is unlikely to garner the level of cross party support worthy of pursuit.

Going into coalition talks opening with our primary position of preferring a party led alliance/ coalition, in the event such proposal is being rejected by the prospective partners, the UDP would consider the need for the second option, to choose an independent candidate from a civil society group who is not affiliated to any political party and will be committed to staying in power in a transitional government of only two years.

This proposal may carry more weight and legitimacy as it asks all to support a qualified independent person to help end tyranny and oversee a transition. This will expedite the coalition talks as all parties will face a singular choice of supporting an opposition Independent candidate.

A tasked force committee comprising four representatives (two from each sex) of each interested party in the alliance/ coalition, would be tasked with the responsibility of short listing the applicants and then selection. Those in favor of the independent option believe that opening up a list of candidates at this material time is assuming out the possibility of a single, all-party, all-embracing, non-partisan, transitional presidential candidate standing on the behalf of all Gambians for the Third Republic, the hope of all Gambians.

Under the current electoral procedures, now being the legally processed an established dispensation, politicians and citizens are more obliged by the question of recovering the right for citizens. Like the party led alliance/ coalition, the transitional government will only saddled with a single programmatic goal of abolishing the Second Republic, paving the way for the new Third Republic.

Like the party led alliance/ coalition:

  1. 1. The ministerial positions will be shared among the coalition/ alliance parties;
  2. The constitution of The Gambia will be reviewed and a referendum organized;
  3. A truth and reconciliation commission will be set;
  4. The Independent Electoral Commission will be reorganized;
  5. Credible free and fair elections will be organized;
  6. All the alliance/ coalition partners will contribute to a common campaign fund for the presidential elections which is managed by all the parties;
  7. A legally binding MOU will be signed by all the partners spelling out role and responsibilities and the shared value to advance Gambia’s democratic process.
  1. Tactical alliance would be considered for the National Assembly and Local Government Elections.
  1. 4. OPTION 3:– TO GO ALONE

In the event the second option also fails to materialize, UDP will continue to explore the last possible option, to go alone. A realistic appraisal of the situation on the ground ought to make us be ready for going into 2016 with or without any opposition coalition if we are to avoid another bout of a mass boycott of the elections. The only party that will gain from such boycott is the ruling party as there are no quorum-type provisions in The Gambian constitution and even if only 10% of voters were to turn out the results would still be valid. If we are left with the false illusions of the possible coalition until too late in the course of the coming 2016 round of elections it will surely lead to just greater voter frustration and apathy.

It is, therefore, prudent for the UDP not to just shun the idea of the coalition only, but at least scale down the idea in its hierarchy of political priorities and prepare itself for elections in any form. The party aims for winning 2016 Presidential Elections on its own while letting the doors open for any party wanting to join the UDP on partnership on its terms of alliance/ coalition.

It is important for parties to come together in our collective desire to end the 22 years misrule of the AFPRC/ APRC regime, on the other hand, the electorates too should take their civic rights and responsibilities and deny President Jammeh their votes and massively vote for the opposition with or without alliance. It is a wrong notion to believe that change can only happen if the oppositions come together, change as it is on everybody’s lips, if demonstrate into votes, there is no way it cannot happen.