Constitutional crisis

Feb 11, 2021, 1:23 PM | Article By: D.M. Badjie, Political Scientist/Commentator

Gambians are yet to be decided on the Draft 2020 Constitution. The national stalemate on the document relates to contentious clauses which are well known by the public and the international negotiators who are in the country to find amicable solutions to the way forward. Despite the fact that Gambians, home and abroad, had given their views on the New Constitution, the authorities and politicians failed to move the process through Parliament.

The country is now faced with a constitutional crisis. This is an indication of the fragility of the democratic system. The tragedy with the Gambians in this era is that power conviction takes precedence over the democratic disposition of the New Gambia narrative. This is a poor reflection of the spirit of the 2016 Coalition Agenda. The CRC, the Executive and Parliament cannot be extricated from the blame game. In my view, the CRC Draft 2020 Constitution has been too elaborate, too elitist and to some extent legally biased.

For a country in which the reading culture is poor and sycophancy is high in national politics, CRC should have been warned not to have come up with such a document. The missing link was that the writing could have been reflected on political reality as well. The Executive enthusiasm in the beginning of the transition about a new constitution that will be reflective of New Gambia was overturned later by the lack of political will to adopt the final product. The Executive, therefore, tacitly passed on the bill to Parliament. There was no strong advocacy to convince the House to approve of the Bill. The Parliament, for political reasons, failed to pass the bill to the next stage before a referendum is sanctioned.

The country is left with no option for now but to operate by the 1997 Constitution which was considered bad for good governance. It is risky to go by the 1997 Constitution which does not have a term limit, and which calls for simple majority to declare the winner, etc. In constitutional matters, to leave the legal environment hanging in the balance, neither here nor there, is dangerous. After all, no leader or party heard from Allah as to who will lead the country in the 2021 elections.

From the manifestation of political parties, the people (supporters) are where they were in 2016 politics. The people will not be fooled to vote for the wrong leaders and parties anymore. The need for national consensus on a New Constitution is of utmost urgency and necessity to move the country forward. The platform for national dialogue and compromise should start with issues of concern to key stakeholders. The fear of losing out certain advantages in governance should not overwhelm the fundamental necessity of having a new constitution that is reflective of the New Gambia.

There will be no losers or winners in reaching an agreement. The current stalemate is insensitive to the wishes and aspirations of Gambians for a new democratic order that is guided by the rule of law. We cannot pass the threshold of democratic decency if we fail to put in place a governance architecture that is solid and in the best interest of the country. Gambians must be decided on this constitutional crisis. We either swim together or sink together.

“If we cannot act on what is TRUE, we cannot have a functioning democracy,” said Thomas Friedman. This is the case on the national stalemate on the draft 2020 constitution. This gutter politics must stop.