The 1997 constitution provides for a unitary republican democracy, with the president, vice-president and secretaries of state responsible to parliament. The unicameral parliament, the National Assembly, has a five-year term. Five members are nominated by the president, 48 directly elected under universal suffrage. The president is also elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term, and there is no limit on the number of terms he may serve. Executive power resides in the president, vice-president and cabinet, both of whom are appointed by the president. The voting age is 18; there is an ombudsman. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary and allows for declaration of a state of emergency, and for special courts to try cases of corruption. A twothirds majority in parliament is required to change the constitution.
In the presidential election in October 2001, the second since restoration of multiparty democracy, Yahya Jammeh won a second term with 53% of the votes, Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) came second with 33% and Hamat Bah of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) third with 8%. Commonwealth observers were present at the election. This was followed in January 2002 by parliamentary elections when Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) gained virtually all seats in the National Assembly. The elections were boycotted by the UDP – claiming that the electoral roll had been manipulated – and the APRC was unopposed in 33 of the 48 seats. Because of the UDP boycott, the Commonwealth decided not to observe the elections. Jammeh was returned for a third term with 67% of the votes in the presidential election of September 2006, which was again attended by Commonwealth observers. Darboe (UDP) received 27% of the votes and Halifa Sallah (National Alliance for Democracy and Development) 6%. In the parliamentary elections that followed in January 2007 the APRC won 42 seats and the UDP four, and the turnout was 42%. In the presidential election in November 2011 Jammeh won with 72% of the votes; Darboe (UDP) received 17% and Hamat Bah (United Front coalition) 11%. A Commonwealth expert team concluded that, while the elections were peaceful and technically sound, democratic reforms were needed. On a low turnout of registered voters (39%), the ruling APRC won 43 seats in the March 2012 parliamentary elections (securing 52% of votes cast), independents taking four seats (39%) and the NRP one seat (9%). Six opposition parties, including the UDP, boycotted the elections and 25 members were elected uncontested.
Following the 1 December 2016 elections, the elections commission declared Adama Barrow the winner of the presidential election. Jammeh, who had ruled for 22 years, first announced he would step down after losing the 2016 election before declaring the results void and calling for a new vote, sparking a constitutional crisis and leading to an invasion by an ECOWAS coalition.On 20 January 2017, Jammeh announced that he had agreed to step down and would leave the country.
On 14 February 2017, The Gambia began the process of returning to its membership of the Commonwealth and formally presented its application to rejoin to Secretary-General Patricia Scotland on 22 January 2018. On 8 February 2018, The Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth.