Opinion column: My take on the outcome of the recently concluded Ward Councillor election
The recent Ward Councillor election results describing the performance of National People Party “NPP” were not undramatic, but they disguised a profound truth.
There is no doubt that the results confirmed that President Barrow is a deeply unpopular leader. And NPP should not shrug off these losses as usual slumps. But there are signs that these are indicators of structural rather than cyclical malaise.
The NPP vote is in trouble on two fronts. Most stark is the serious ones in Kanifing Municipal Council “KMC” and West Coast Region.
Barrow’s collapsed popularity and the costs of living crisis are cause for concern. And unless NPP deals with President Barrow’s egregious unfitness for office, such a dismal set of losses will continue.
We have an NPP government enveloped in corruption allegations and factional divisions riddled with sleaze, led by a president who is unfit for office.
From the start, the government of President Barrow was beset by crisis after crisis, causing cliff-edge meltdown damaging the future prospect of the party.
And, the bald fact is that President Barrow’s government is overseeing the worst squeezes in living standards in Gambia’s history. The costs of living crisis are robbing the pockets of Gambians, and this government seems to have no solution/s to mitigate the sufferings of Gambians on all fronts.
With this, by the time of the next election, voters will be suffering even more as a result of unsustainably high costs of food and basic necessities. And this may spell further woes on already bruised NPP.
With catastrophic failures on the economy and uncontrollable corruption allegations, and no hook on which to hang a positive, flourishing vision for the future, the NPP policy offering has been reduced down to the only thing they have left - tribal politics.
On the contrary, the political conditions for the United Democratic Party “UDP” could hardly be more fortuitous. A stunning local election results for UDP matched by a dramatic decline for President Barrow.
UDP achieved eye-catching success in KMC and West Coast and made progress elsewhere. But the flip side is not UDP surging ahead in all the areas where NPP is retreating; no to Alliance and GDC have also benefited.
For the party, this is a solid performance, but UDP needs stellar performance to get NPP off the State House. The results are arguably not necessarily a sign of UDP seismic recovery but collapsed of NPP votes.
However, it may be foolhardy to directly equate local and national politics, but this time, it felt different. The surge in UDP’s confidence from this local council election belie hopes that this would be temporal. Thus, the chairmanship and mayoral elections in both KMC and the West Coast Region look promising for the UDP.
On the other hand, the city dwellers in Banjul decided to stick with the NPP, and there is nothing surprising about this.
This surge in Banjul will, without doubt, trigger Mayor Rogey Malick Lowe to fine-tune her ideas and adjust the mechanics of campaign strategies in order to overturn the NPP’s victory in Banjul.
Also, there is a glimmer of hope for NPP with the results of the Central River Region “CRR”. With the power of incumbency and what that means in African politics, NPP is still a credible force, come the Chairmanship and Mayoral elections.
Additionally, it will be an amateurish political miscalculation to not appreciate the craftiness of NPP's modus operandi bereft of credibility as we witness pre-local council elections.
We saw openly, NPP heavyweights engaged in opened voters buying and bribery. These degrading spectacles with profuse shame are the norms we have to content with in the current Gambian political landscape.
It is a common practice for political party supporters, including ministers, to become, in effect, entrepreneurs for voter buying and bribery with the hope of getting a slice of government bounties. Politicuans denigrate political activity to 'plalace politics', an arena for ruling elites to manoeuvre to feather their own nests, alas.
But, the Ward Council election results should sound a warning note for NPP. And, they will ignore the sound of the ringing bell this council elections triggered at their peril.
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