Gambia’s lawmakers have rejected a draft constitution to replace the 1997 constitution.
The document which was to help reform the country’s governance system could not secure enough votes at the national assembly.
31 National Assembly members voted in favor of the bill to be passed while 23 members rejected the new draft constitution.
The draft constitution has been a product of two and a half years work with a nationwide consultation with Gambians undertaken.
Over $2 million (116 million Dalasi) was spent to draft the new constitution.
But after three days of debate at the National Assembly over some clauses, the members rejected the document.
The fears over new document
There are fears among some members that the constitution is to ensure that incumbent president Adama Barrow gets the chance to contest for president in fresh two terms of 5 years each.
For the bill to pass it needs to get two thirds of the majority of the National Assembly.
The speaker of the house Mariama Jack Denton said “After days of debate the bill has failed to get the required two thirds majority, 31 members voted Yes and 23 voted No, which means the bill didn’t reach the two third majority to move to the next stage”.
The Minister of Justice Dawda Jallow has urged the members of parliament to allow the bill to pass to the next stage but it was unsuccessful.
“Please I think you should allow the bill to pass to the next stage, if necessary we can look at some clauses which need to be amended to be amended” he said.
The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was established by an Act of the National Assembly back in June, 2018.
The Commission’s main functions are to review and analyse the current Constitution, draft a new Constitution for the Republic of The Gambia and prepare a report in relation to the new Constitution.
Top five proposals in new constitution:
The draft document has several reform proposals. Here are some of the interesting proposals:
- The new document proposes a two-five year term limit for the president
- The legislature cannot extend the mandate of a president
- The draft constitution proposes the disqualification of a presidential candidate without a university degree
- The draft Constitution comprises 20 chapters with a total of 315 clauses
- The draft document makes room for a cap to be placed on the number of Cabinet Ministers a President can appoint, setting it at fifteen, excluding the Attorney General and Minister of Justice
The draft constitution which was rejected if passed would have gone to a referendum and 75 percent of the voters will have to vote Yes before it can be adopted to replace the current constitution which was brought into effect in 1997 under former president Yahya Jammeh.
This is a huge blow in the reform process of the new Gambia which will still need a new constitution to form a third republic.