Gambia: New Constitution Only After 2021!
Having watched the 2-hour long Paradise TV Debate with an impressive list of panellists, I can only conclude that The Gambia will not get a new Constitution until after the Presidential elections in 2021 – or even until after the Presidential elections in 2026!
Even if the current National Assembly gets a simple majority to keep the section that bars President Barrow from contesting in 2026, the National Assembly will not get a 75% vote to put the new Constitution to a referendum if President Barrow opposes it (Barrow needs only 16 NAMs to oppose it). If President Barrow does not like the new Draft Constitution, all he needs to do is not put it to a referendum for various reasons: “draft not passed by the National Assembly”, “voters roll not ready”, “no funds for a referendum”, “continuing Covid-19 problems”, etc, etc.
There are benefits for President Barrow in not to supporting the Draft Constitution as it is until after the Presidential elections in 2021 because:-
- He is likely to win a majority for his NPP party in the National Assembly in 2022 – and be able to remove the section that counts his first term; A new amended Constitution after 2022 will most likely state that Barrow’s first-term under the new Constitution begins in 2022 – which allows Barrow to run again in 2026; If he does not get a 75% vote for his preferred new Constitution in 2022, then he will continue to rule under Jammeh’s 1997 Constitution – and bring in the new Constitution in 2027!
- Under the 1997 Constitution, Barrow will be able to nominate the Speaker of the National Assembly in 2022 – and also nominate his 5 NAMs, which will enable him to rule smoothly until the 2026 elections after which Barrow can pass the Draft Constitution as it is for his legacy when he lives office in January 2031.
In the above posting 5 days ago, I was baffled by Halifa’s comment about the Draft Constitution – but now that becomes understandable in the light of the National Assembly “disarray” (Halifa’s word) over the Emergency Powers debate: Halifa simply will not agree with the UDP majority in the National Assembly on anything and so there will be no new Constitution for The Gambia! LoL – it is 2006 and the NADD “disarray” all over again.
There are also risks and President Barrow will have to play it very carefully on this: the political and civil society opposition may unite in a huge chorus in demand of a new Constitution – and cost President Barrow the 2021 election itself … in which case the coveted Presidency itself and the “legacy” go down the drain. Incumbency is everything in African politics and my bet is on Barrow winning the 2021 elections … but there is a great risk if the whole country unites on a demand for a new Constitution now.