Gambian presidential election set for December 2016

GAMBIA (AFP) - The Gambia will hold presidential elections in December 2016 with legislative polls scheduled for four months later, the electoral commission said on Monday (Dec 7).

The presidential vote will be held on Dec 1, 2016, and the legislative elections on Apr 6, 2017, Mr Joe Colley, head of communications at the Gambia National Independent Electoral Commission, told AFP.

The Gambia, a former British colony nestled within Senegal, is one of the poorest nations in the world and has been ruled with an iron fist by President Yahya Jammeh since he seized power in a coup in 1994.

Human rights groups accuse his regime of disappearances, assassinations, extra-judicial killings and harassment of journalists and activists - claims the government has repeatedly rejected.

Mr Jammeh was elected for the first time in 1996 and has been re-elected three times since, most recently in 2011 with 72 per cent of the vote.

His party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), won a landslide at the last legislative elections in 2012, a vote that was boycotted by six opposition parties accusing the regime of "abuse of power".

Mr Colley said operations to boost voter awareness in the nation of some 1.8 million people would begin soon, with registration to kick off in January.

"The National Council for Civic Education will soon commence the voter education exercise in Basse, in the Upper River Region of the country," he added.