Political realism

Nov 6, 2020, 12:26 PM

It is interesting that political realism has gone out of the heads of many of our politicians nowadays. There seems to be so much nervousness about tribalism in Gambian politics.

One wonders about the wild talks about the victimization of the Fulas, about a majority tribe winning the Presidency in 2021 elections, about power and money buying votes, about the advantages of incumbency, about alliances between political parties, about the 2020 CRC draft constitution and so on.

Unless there is another motive behind the NRP leadership crying about the victimization of the Fulas, the reality is that all political parties are composed of different tribes. For anyone to suggest that tribalism is an issue in Gambian politics is certainly a fallacy. Gambian elections are for Gambian citizens, period.

In The Gambia today, we all know that no one tribe can unilaterally dictate political outcomes. The number and varieties of the make-up of political parties tells us that the major tribes will be divided many times over, neutralizing the tribal card. Those who are not able to read the writings on the walls in this regard will wake up to a harsh reality. In terms of power and money buying votes, it will be recalled that in the Bye election in Balangar, Saloum produced shocking results from the then APRC candidate. Despite the trucks of food, bags of money and heavy downpour of government ministers and APRC big wigs sent out there to secure the seat, the APRC candidate almost lost his deposit in defeat.

It was an embarrassing and painful defeat of the APRC in the constituency. It is a lesson that could resurface again in 2021 elections in other parts of the country. In politics, it is said that the advantages of incumbency carry weight and influence in elections. The question then is who would have thought the former President Jammehwill be defeated by Barrow in the 2016 elections? We are now talking about the advantages of incumbency in the 2021 elections. How realistic will that be in light of the fact that it will be NPP as a single party as opposed to 2016 in which seven (7) political parties backed an independent coalition candidate for the Presidency?These are two largely different political scenarios and therefore people should not be under the illusion of the advantages of incumbency in the next round of elections.

Going by the dictates of a New Constitution, and in the face of more than 17 political parties,it will be highly unlikely that any single party can win in the first round of the elections in 2021. The democratic space will be highly competitive and the political environment will be convoluted. Therefore, political alliances will be inevitable especially in the event of a second round of voting. It will be a daunting task for alliances between parties due to lessons of the past and ideological differences.

The CRC Draft Constitution has its shortcomings because it was more legally formed than politically reflected upon. It could have been thoroughly discussed and amended to reflect governance and political reality. The idea that the Draft document cannot be touched (altered) is certainly in the views of many people. The reality is that a constitution is both a legal document and a political document. This Draft Constitution is seen as too elaborate and elitist in content; however, despite its defective aspect, it must be stated that having each government in The Gambia come up with a New Constitutionis an unstable democratic tendency and bad governance practice.

Those who advocate for the 1997 Constitution as an instrument of governance probably do not understand its ramifications. It does not have a term limit and no upper age limit. It calls for simple majority. It gives immunity to the former Head of State and his former military Junta. It has been amended many times over and therefore it has become tainted and dictatorial in implementation. If we make an amended and acceptable 2020 New Constitution impossible, we shall make dictatorship inevitable again in The Gambia.

A winning strategy will go in the way of those who understand and face political realism. Interesting times are ahead in the political process. Will Gambians wake up to another surprise?

By: D.M. Badjie

Political Scientist/Commentator