Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s term has been extended by 90 days after the parliament declared a state of emergency in the crisis-hit West African country.
Yahya Jammeh’s term is due to end on January 19 following his defeat in elections by Adama Barrow.
Regional leaders have threatened to use military force to oust Yahya Jammeh if he refuses to hand power to President-elect Adama Barrow tomorrow.
Thousands of tourists are being evacuated from The Gambia.
The Gambia is popular with European holidaymakers because of its beaches.
The country was plunged into crisis after Yahya Jammeh rejected Adama Barrow’s shock victory in the December 1st election.
In a TV announcement on January 17, the outgoing president said: “Any acts of disobedience to the laws of The Gambia, incitement of violence and acts intended to disturb public order and peace were banned under the state of emergency.”
Yahya Jammeh said security forces were instructed to “maintain absolute peace, law and order”.
The US State Department urged Yahya Jammeh to transfer power to Adama Barrow on January 19.
Spokesman John Kirby said: “Doing so would allow him to leave office with his head held high and to protect The Gambian people from potential chaos.
“Failure to do so will put his legacy, and more importantly The Gambia, in peril.”
Regional bloc ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), has prepared a Senegal-led force to oust Yahya Jammeh if he refuses to step down.
The African Union has warned that it will not recognize Yahya Jammeh as president after January 19.
Adama Barrow, a property developer, has been in Senegal since January 14. His aides said he would return to The Gambia for his inauguration.
Last month, Adama Barrow said he would be sworn in at a ceremony organized by his transition team, raising the possibility of two rival presidents.
Yahya Jammeh’s declaration of a state of emergency was seen as an attempt to block the ceremony, scheduled to take place at a stadium in Bakau town, west of the capital Banjul, from going ahead.
Adama Barrow could, technically, also be sworn in at The Gambian embassy in Senegal.
Thousands of Gambians, including women and children, have been fleeing to Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau, fearing unrest.
Yahya Jammeh has ruled The Gambia since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1994.
The Gambia regularly held elections, which he won until his shock defeat in the latest poll.
Yahya Jammeh has said there were irregularities in the election process, including the turning away of some of his supporters from polling stations, and errors made by the electoral commission.
The commission accepted that some of the results it initially published contained errors, but said Adama Barrow had still won.
Yahya Jammeh has said he will stay in office until new elections are held.
Retaining power would also ensure Yahya Jammeh was not prosecuted in The Gambia for alleged abuses committed during his rule.
Gambia’s incumbent President Yahya Jammeh has rejected the result of the presidential election held earlier this month, a week after admitting defeat.
Yahya Jammeh, who took power in a coup in 1994, cited “abnormalities” in the vote and called for fresh elections.
He was defeated by Adama Barrow, who won more than 43% of this month’s vote.
Adama Barrow accused Yahya Jammeh of damaging democracy by refusing to accept the result. His transition team said the president-elect was safe.
The results were revised by the country’s electoral commission on December 5, when it emerged that the ballots for one area were added incorrectly, swelling Adama Barrow’s vote.
The error, which also added votes to the other candidates, “has not changed the status quo” of the result, the commission said.
However, it narrowed Adama Barrow’s margin of victory from 9% to 4%.
Yahya Jammeh said that he now rejected the results of the election “in totality”.
“After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election,” he said.
“I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process.
“I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a God-fearing and independent electoral commission.”
Adama Barrow’s spokesperson said the head of the army, General Ousman Badjie, supported the president-elect, having pledged his allegiance after the initial result.
The US has “strongly condemned” Yahya Jammeh’s rejection of the result.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “This action is a reprehensible and unacceptable breach of faith with the people of The Gambia and an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election process and remain in power illegitimately.”
The streets of the capital, Banjul, were reported to be calm on December 9 although soldiers were seen placing sandbags in strategic locations across the city, AFP news agency reports.
Only last week, Yahya Jammeh was shown on state TV calling Adama Barrow to wish him well.
“You are the elected president of The Gambia, and I wish you all the best. I have no ill will,” he said at the time.
Adama Barrow, a property developer, is due to take office in late January.
The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, with a population of fewer than two million.
In his 22 years in power, Yahya Jammeh acquired a reputation as a ruthless leader.