Shock, outrage as Gambian MPs shoot down draft constitution bill

APA-Banjul (The Gambia)

This is general shock and outrage in The Gambia after parliamentarians failed to back a proposed draft constitution that would have replaced the one which has been in force since 1997, APA can report on Wednesday.

After two days of sometimes stormy debate, scrutinizing its merits and demerits, 31 members of the national assembly on Tuesday voted in favour of the Draft 2020 Constitution Bill while 23 were against it. 

The bill thus failed to gain the 42-vote threshold required to take it to the committee stage where it would have faced further scrutiny before being passed.

Observers say the pattern of the vote suggests a deepening rift in the national assembly between MPs backing President Adama Barrow and his detractors.

Suspicion had clouded the debate that Barrow's backers were poised to shoot down the Bill, given the retroactive nature of a provision regarding his overall tenure as president, a contentious issue which had split the House almost into rival factions.

His backers fear that should such a provision be given the light of day as part of an endorsed draft constitution, it could "rob" Barrow the chance to go for another term if he wins the 2021 presidential election and therefore torpedoed the Bill.

On the other hand his detractors in the national assembly especially those belonging to the United Democratic Party and other fringe parties in the House voted in favour of the bill.

The opinion of most Gambians after the vote suggest that D100 million of public money has been quite literally flushed down the drain, in direct reference to the budget put at the disposal of the Constitutional Review Commission charged with drafting the document.

Other Gambians have described the defeat of the bill as a betrayal by MPs for whom partisanship in the national assembly was more important than the national interest.

MP Ousman Sillah described the outcome of the vote as a missed opportunity to endorsed a progressive document which would have represented a decent improvement on the current constitution.


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