The Gambia will hold its first election on Thursday since the downfall of longtime leader Yahya Jammeh. Expectations are high that new lawmakers will overhaul the national assembly once derided as a mere rubberstamp by many in the country. Gambians have long complained that under Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years, laws were often made by executive decree and buttressed by legislation much later on, if at all. Campaigning ended on Tuesday for the 238 registered candidates representing nine different political parties who are vying for the 53 seats up for election.
Five seats are to be appointed by President Adama Barrow, totalling 58 spots in the small west African nation’s parliament.
Kemo Bojang, a first-time voter speaking to Al Jazeera by phone, said there is a lot of excitement surrounding this year’s election. “This is a breakthrough for us, voting for someone who will actually represent us,” Bojang, 20, who resides in the western town of Bakau, said.
He added he has witnessed many within his community actively engaged in the political process, something he said many feared to do while Jammeh was in power.