* Incumbent wins with 72 pct of vote
* West African bloc criticises poll preparations
* Tourist hotspot, but known for rights abuses, poverty (Adds Jammeh win)
By Pap Saine
BANJUL, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh secured a new five-year term on Friday after the election commission declared him the winner in a poll regional leaders said was marked by intimidation of voters and the opposition.
Former military coup leader Jammeh scored a landslide 72 percent victory, according to results read out by Independent Electoral Commission chairman Alhagie Mustapha Carayol.
Jammeh won 470,550 votes, while his closest rival Ousainou Darboe got 114,177 votes, or 17 percent, Carayol said. Independent candidate Amath Bah scored 11 percent.
The incumbent’s victory was seen by many analysts as a foregone conclusion in the West African nation, which is regularly accused by rights groups of repression of dissent and muzzling of media.
“People know what I did for the Gambia for the past 17 years in terms of development. The British who were here for 400 years never did that,” Jammeh told reporters as he voted in the capital Banjul on Thursday, referring Gambia’s former colonial ruler whose presence was established in the 16th century.
There were 800,000 registered voters for the poll and turnout was 82 percent, the electoral commission said.
In a unique system, voters are given one marble each, which they drop into a drum corresponding to the candidate of their choice. The marble strikes a bell inside, preventing multiple voting.
One of Africa’s most controversial rulers, Jammeh announced in 2007 that he had a herbal concoction that cured AIDS, but only on Thursdays, a claim derided by international health experts.
He declared in July that neither a vote nor a coup could oust him, saying he ruled thanks to divine intervention. He has courted controversy with reported threats to human rights groups and a 2008 order for all homosexuals to leave Gambia.
The West African regional body ECOWAS, in an unusually strong criticism of a member state, said this week it would not send an observer mission “because the preparations and political environment ... are adjudged by the commission not to be conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls.”
Its fact-finding mission found “an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power ... and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation”.
With palm-fringed tropical beaches, Gambia is a tourist hotspot.
Jammeh’s supporters point to development projects undertaken in 17 years since the 1994 coup, while others note the crippling poverty in a country where income per head is around $1 a day.
“I am coming to vote and pray for change because life is very hard,” said Binta Jah, a housewife in the coastal town of Serekunda. “The average Gambian cannot afford a bag of rice.” (Writing by Mark John; Editing by Tim Cocks and Alessandra Rizzo)