The 2020 draft Constitution bill has been rejected at the National Assembly after 23 members have voted against its passing to the third reading. This means the process to adopt the new Constitution has been killed. At least for now.
“The Yes is 31. The No is 23. According to Section 226 of the 1997 Constitution reads and I quote. A bill for an Act of the National Assembly under this section shall not be passed by the assembly or presented to the president for an assent unless the bill is supported on the second and third reading by the votes of not less than three quarters of the members of the National Assembly,” said the speaker of Gambia’s National Assembly.
The bill was therefore rejected by the Parliament. The deputies who made their positions known in throwing away the bill include Saikou Marong of Latrikunda Sabiji, Saikouba Jarju of Busumbala, a nominated member Ma Janko Samusa, Alhagie Jawara of Lower Baddibu etc who are all identified with President Adama Barrow, whose cabinet expressed dissatisfaction with the draft. Parliamentarians belonging to the NRP, a party which is now identified with the current government are also believed to have voted against the draft.
Other members who vowed to vote against the bill are members belonging to the former ruling party APRC as a way of attempting to retain Jammeh’s legacy in the 1997 Constitution.
The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was established by an Act of Parliament after the government showed interest in ushering the country into the Third Republic with the new Constitution. Since then, over 100 million dalasi was spent on drafting the document which includes series consultative meetings with Gambians home and abroad. Political parties, government institutions including the security outfits, media, civil society groups etc. were all engaged in the draft.
Upon rejection, several Gambians quickly rushed to express frustration on various social media outlets. “National disaster!” said Madi Jobarteh, a renowned Gambian activist.
“So the bill has been killed at the National Assembly. The millions of Dalasi, energy and time put into the draft constitution wasted. Where did we get it all wrong?” journalism trainer Sang Mendy wrote on Facebook.
“Sad day for Gambia as the draft Constitution is dead and buried,” said Lamin Fatty, national coordinator of Child Protection Alliance.
While the rejection of the draft could mean that Barrow can continue to run for office endlessly, it created a tougher election battle for him. His direct opponent is the United Democratic Party (UDP) who the retention of 1997 Constitution could favour considering their popularity and could win the election with simple majority.
“Simple majority, let’s make it rain then..! Millions blown in the air!” Bakary Fofona, a perceived sympathiser of the UDP.
The decision is not received well by the country’s development partners including the EU, U.K, U.S, and Germany who all prevailed on the deputies to vote for the passage of the bill.