In The Gambia, parliament has rejected the country’s draft constitution that was table for approval. This proposed new constitution was supposed to replace Gambia’s 1997 constitution, but Parliament couldn’t meet the necessary votes to have the bill approved. For the bill to pass, parliament needs three quarter of the total vote cast. 32 MPs voted yes, and 23 vote no. The bill was short for the required 42 votes to be passed.
The rejection of the 2017 draft constitution bill followed days of intensive debate.
Some of the MPS who are on President Barrow’s camp refused to vote in favor of the bill. They said the proposed law was designed to operate retroactively. According to the MPs, President Barrow’s current five-year mandate would be included in the two-term limit for the Presidency, as stipulated by the draft constitution.
“The votes of the honorable members supporting the reading failed short of the threshold of 42 members. Therefore as presiding officer, in accordance with section 226, 2b, and 4b of the 1997 constitution, I hereby announce that the constitution of The Gambia 2020, promulgation bill failed and would not proceed to the next stage of the process,” House Speaker Mariam Jack Denton said.
Opposition Leader Ousainou Darboe has made repeated calls prior to Tuesday’s vote for the MPS to pass the bill, but to no avail. Another opposition leader Mai Ahmed Fatty, even took to Facebook crying, while expressing the need for the bill to be passed.
Efforts made by the European Union, the United States Embassy Banjul, and the British High Commission for the bill to be passed had also failed.
“According to section 226, 2b and 4b of the 1997 constitution reads and I quote, subsection 2, subject to section 4, a bill from an act of the National Assembly, under this section that is section 226, shall not be passed by the assembly or presented to the President for assent unless, 2b, the bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than three quarters of all the members of the national assembly,” the Speaker added.
Dawda Jallow is Gambia’s Justice Minister.
“The flip side is, if we get a no answer at this stage, a no vote, by my own interpretation of section 226 of the current constitution, and I intimated earlier, a no answer at this stage, kills the bill right here, that is my interpretation,” Jallow remarked.
The Wuli West MP Sidia Jatta arrived late during the vote. Jatta never voted.
The Banjul South MP Touma Njie was absent during Tuesday’s voting. She is said to have traveled to the United Kingdom.
Now that the new law has suffered a premature death in parliament, the country’s future remains uncertain. Observers say the opposition might not take the rejection of the bill lightly.
Meanwhile, the main opposition United Democratic Party said it will organize a press briefing on Wednesday at its leader’s office in Kairaba Avenue. The party would share its reaction to the rejection of the bill.