LEAD: Polls close in Gambia's 'unfair' presidential election
Nov 24, 2011, 22:22 GMT
Monrovia/Banjul (dpa) - Polling stations closed on Thursday in Gambia, West Africa's smallest nation, in a presidential vote widely expected to grant incumbent president Yahya Jammeh a fourth term in office and boycotted by African observers who deemed it unfair.
Some 800,000 registered voters went to polling stations, dropping clear marbles into coloured canisters to cast their votes.
The 46-year-old leader, who came to power in 1994 in a bloodless coup, is up against contenders Hamat Bah and Ousainou Darboe in the poll.
His main rival, Darboe, has been campaigning on a platform of human rights and media freedom in a country that has been criticized by rights groups for its 'dire' human rights record.
Observers from the West African regional body known as ECOWAS pulled out of Gambia on Wednesday. The group said the situation in Gambia was not 'conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls.'
Binta Fall, a mother of three from Gambia's capital Banjul, was among those who cast her vote on Thursday. 'There was a line when I got to the polling station, but as some people reached the front, they were told they had come to the wrong place,' she said.
'Some people were getting confused. I have been assured I am in the right line and I will go ahead and vote. I will not say who I am voting for but I am voting for a better future for my children.'
Fall's cousin Pape, who works in an office, said the most important issues in Gambia are education and access to better jobs for the poor.
'It is important for me to come and vote, because even if we can predict the result, I want to use my voice. But I cannot say who I am voting for,' he said.
African Union observers, who are in the country along with Commonwealth and European Union observation missions, have said they will release a statement in the next few days on the transparency of the vote. Results are expected within days.