The first Gambian political party, the Democratic Party, was formed in 1951 by Rev. John C. Faye. The Muslim Congress Party (CP) and the United Party (UP), led by Pierre S. N'Jie, were formed in 1952. The People's Progressive Party (PPP), under the leadership of Dawda Kairaba Jawara, was formed in 1958 and has governed the country since independence. The CP and the PPP merged in 1968. Two other parties were formed to compete in the 1977 elections, the National Liberation Party and the National Convention Party (NCP). In the elections of May 1982, the PPP won 27 seats (the same as in 1977), the NCP 3, and independents 5; in March 1987, the PPP won 31 seats and the NCP 5; and in April, 1992, PPP won 25 seats and the NCP 6. Other parties included The Gambia People's Party (GPP), the People's Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), the Gambian People's Democratic Party (PDP), and the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA).
After the 1994 coup political parties were barred. The ban was lifted in August 1996, but three pre-coup parties, the People's Progressive Party, The Gambia People's Party, and the National Convention Party remained proscribed. An independent electoral commission lifted the ban on these parties in August 2001. Elections for the House of Assembly were held on 2 January 1997 with members installed on 16 January 1997. Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction took 33 of 45 contested seats, the United Democratic Party took 7 seats, the National Reconciliation Party 2 seats, the PDOIS 1 seat, and independents 2 seats.
Members of opposition parties were harassed during Jammeh's annual tour in 1999 when he lashed out at them as a "gang of alcoholics." His own party weathered rough seas in early 2000 as its secretary-general, Phodey Makalo, disappeared with most of its funds. The July 22 Movement, which served Jammeh as a militia and political vehicle to launch his campaign, was reintegrated into the APRC.
Parliamentary elections were held on 17 January 2002 giving the APRC 45 of 53 seats. The PDOIS took three seats. Citing elections bias on the part of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the main challenger to the APRC, the United Democratic Party boycotted the elections. APRC candidates ran unopposed in 33 of 48 constituencies. Former head of state Sir Dawda Jawara returned from exile in September 2002 upon condition that he resign from his party.