If you thought our elections were tough, you should live in the Gambia.
It’s December 1, 2016, and for those of you who don't know, the citizens of the Gambia elect a new president today. A real estate agent, Adama Barrow, is challenging the sitting president, Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh has predicted that “divine intervention” will grant him a fifth term as president. How can a candidate not win when Allah himself will intervene?
Illiteracy is rampant in the Gambia, but they still want people to vote. Instead of paper ballots with writing on them, they give each voter a marble, and the voter then drops it into a drum marked with a photo of the guy they're voting for. Sounds like a plan to me. After the voting, I wonder if they count the marbles or just weigh them? Can't you hear it now being announced on the BBC? “The winner of today's presidential election is Yahya Jammeh by an overwhelming majority of 873 pounds of marbles.” According to news reports, in 2011 only two votes were declared invalid after the voters placed their marbles on top of the drum instead of inside it. No hanging chads, no voter fraud accusations; just a couple of guys who couldn't figure out how to put a marble in a drum.
The platforms are also interesting. President Jammeh believes he has a divine right to be president because he can “cure AIDS and infertility.” Well, okay then. I wonder why he's waited until this election to perform these miracles; after all, he's been president since the coup in 1994. Never mind, he was probably busy curing cancer and creating the Internet with Al Gore.
President Jammeh has also declared that he “will rule for a billion years if Allah wills.” When asked, Allah replied that he believes the Gambia needs term limits. (I made that part up. Allah couldn't actually be reached for comment.)
On the other side, Mr. Barrow says he wants to restore prosperity, human rights, and true democracy. Sounds good, but when you're running against a guy who can cure AIDS and infertility and has the ear of Allah, it doesn't look like you have much of a chance.
President Jammeh has responded that he has brought education and health care to the remote parts of the Gambia, and anyone who disagrees will be killed, jailed, or forced into exile. Hmmmm … in that case, he's got my marble. It also brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “losing one's marbles.” I guess that could only happen in Chicago.
President Jammeh has also warned his rivals that they must accept the results of the election, and no recounts are allowed. He was quoted as saying, “Our election system is fraud-proof, rig-proof … you cannot rig our elections.” After all, how could the Russians interfere with every voter putting a marble in a bucket? Maybe we need to have that here? Just saying.
So tonight we'll see the results of the race for president of the Gambia. Personally, I'm betting on the guy who knows Allah.
Update: Adama Barrow won the election by more than 50,000 marbles.