At a polling station in Banjul, Gambia, September 2006.
Finbarr O'Reilly / REUTERS

On December 1, Gambians will vote in their country’s most consequential election since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. For the first time, a unified political coalition will challenge Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s longtime dictator, only months after the most vigorous protest movement in the country’s recent history.

The upcoming election could usher in a new period in Gambia’s political development, which so far has been marked by two distinct phases. The first period began in 1965 with Gambian independence and ended in 1994 with the overthrow of Dawda Jawara, the country’s first popularly elected president. Over

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