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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 12:07 GMT
Poor turnout for Gambia polls
Government supporters
President Jammeh won presidential elections last year
Some Gambians have been going to the polls on Thursday in parliamentary elections but the main opposition party is boycotting them.


It is the wisest move, and we'll never regret it

Ousainou Darboe

Turnout is well down presidential elections in October, which President Yahya Jammeh won comfortably.

The boycott by Ousainou Darboe's United Democratic Party paves the way for a landslide victory for President Jammeh's party.

The ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction is running unopposed in 33 of the 48 constituencies.

Mr Darboe has accused the government of fraud.

'Revitalising democracy'

"We are asking all our supporters to stay home, to stay off the streets, to stay out of every polling station," Mr Darboe told the BBC.

"I want them to get away from anything that would bring them into conflict with the law," he added.

Ousainou Darboe
Darboe has no regrets over the boycott

President Jammeh, 36, first seized power in a military coup in 1994, and has made it clear he favours one-party rule.

With the power to appoint the five remaining seats in the 53-member assembly, he will easily secure the two-thirds majority he needs to pass legislation.

But Mr Darboe said the boycott would not shut his party out of the democratic process.

"The national assembly is not the only forum where political parties can make their views known and felt," he said.

"We will be helping to revitalise our democracy in this country, even if it is outside the National Assembly.

He said that he had received proof that voters had been transferred from one constituency to another, saying the government had been "caught with its pants down".

"We know that they have been engaged in this dubious and fraudulent act, we know that," he said, adding he was certain that the boycott was the best strategy.

"It is the wisest move, and we'll never regret it," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC interview with opposition leader Ousainou Darboe
"We are asking all our supporters to stay home"
See also:

21 Dec 01 | Africa
Gambia election boycott
04 Oct 01 | Africa
Violence mars Gambia campaign
19 Oct 01 | Africa
Gambia's president wins election
25 Oct 01 | Africa
Gambia slips towards repression
29 Oct 01 | Africa
Gambian rights activist released
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