Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Jean-Germain Gros


David C Kimball


Emil Nagengast

Yuguo Liao



In the 2016 presidential election in The Gambia, the opposition coalition party had successfully managed to overthrow an authoritarian government, which has ruled the country for 22 years. Contrary to the notion of the prevalence of ethnic voting in African elections, this study found that ethnicity is not the only issue influencing the voting behavior of Gambian voters. The concerns voters have on human rights abuses by the Jammeh’s admistration has resulted in a regime change. The election was issue-based, even though Gambian voters were split on the question of the economy, their dissatisfaction on Jammeh handling of human rights during the 22 years regime lasted led to his lost to opposition coalition leader Mr. Barrow, in the 2016 presidential election.

Using similar approach to investigating issue voting, this dissertation also examines the local government election of mayors in the Banjul City Council (BCC) and Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC). In both sets of elections, Gambian voters have demonstrated that they were more concerned with issues than with the ethnicities of the candidates in elections. Just as concluded that Jammeh lost the election based on issues of human rights, more than ethnocentric voting, the study of local government elections indicates that decisions were primarily based on issues that people care about more so then the ethnic identities of mayoral candidates.

In their determination of the second and third most important issues, differences emerged between the voters in Banjul and those in the KMC. While voters in the KMC have stated that their second and third preferences were waste collection and building road networks within the city, the voters in the mayoral election in Banjul have repeatedly noted the importance they attached on fixing the road infrastructure of the city as their second and third most considered issue when they voted in the local government election. Although, ethnicity was important for some of the voters, but it wasn’t the main factor that influenced the regime change than the concerns Gambian voters have on Jammeh’s handling of human rights in the country.