Gambia's opposition candidate has defeated longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh—a man who in 2011 said he was prepared to rule for a billion years—in the West African country's presidential vote. It's an upset victory that could lead to the country's first transfer of power in more than two decades. Gambians voted Thursday by placing marbles into drums marked for each candidate. Adama Barrow won 263,515 votes, or 45% of the total, while Jammeh finished in second with 36%, and a third candidate received 17%, the head of the election commission announced Friday. Eight opposition parties united behind Barrow, a former businessman, and the campaign featured large opposition rallies and unprecedented expressions of frustration with Jammeh's rule.
Nevertheless, Jammeh had projected confidence, predicting "the biggest landslide in the history of the country" after he voted on Thursday. Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994 and then swept elections in 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 after a 2002 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits. Critics say those earlier elections were not free and fair. Human rights groups have accused Jammeh of ordering the deaths of countless political opponents as well as targeting journalists and gays and lesbians. If Jammeh agrees to step down peacefully, it would demonstrate that even Africa's most entrenched leaders can be brought down if opposition politicians overcome their divisions and unite, a human rights activist tells the AP. "This is going to have resonance way beyond the tiny borders of Gambia."