Gambia’s authoritarian leader Yahya Jammeh is expected to concede defeat in the country’s presidential elections, the electoral commission has said, bringing an end to his 22-year rule of the small west African state.

Electoral commission chief Alieu Momarr Njai said Mr Jammeh had accepted the result and would give a statement later.

He added that it was “very unique” for Mr Jammeh to be conceding, more than two decades after he seized power from Gambia’s first president in a bloodless coup.

Adama Barrow, Jammeh’s opponent who managed to unify eight different opposition parties behind him, said he was expecting a congratulatory phone call from the president.

Mr Barrow, who once worked as a security guard at a branch of Argos in London, said he had not yet received confirmation of the result from the electoral commission, but that his own count showed he had won.

Gambia’s 900,000 registered voters faced a total internet blackout during Thursday’s vote, and international phone lines were also cut.

But the internet appeared to have been restored on Friday afternoon as the result became clear, as activists and journalists flocked to social media to declare victory for Mr Barrow.

Earlier, with 39 out of 53 constituencies counted, results read out on state TV showed Mr Barrow in the lead on 44 per cent of the vote to Mr Jammeh’s 40 per cent, with third candidate Mammah Kandeh on 15 per cent.

The result came as a shock after months of campaigning in which Mr Jammeh had used state resources and media to advance his own cause, while the authorities clamped down on opposition activities.

Earlier this week Mr Jammeh said that his “presidency and power are in the hands of Allah and only Allah can take it from me”. During the campaign, he said that “being called a dictator doesn’t bother me at all, because I am a dictator of development and progress”.

But Mr Barrow said on voting day that he strongly believed Gambians were ready for change, adding: “He is not going to be re-elected – his era is finished.”