Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Battle for Legitimacy in a democratic society

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The Gambian people went to the polls on the 1st of December 2016 and effected change through the ballot box. They protected the change until power was transferred through the ballot box.

Gambia is at peace today because of the maturity of its political leadership. Now many forces are at work. Each is trying to interpret the Coalition agreement of 2016 in order to determine whether President Barrow should vacate office in three years or five years. This poses challenges which need to be addressed.

The way this challenge was addressed in 2016 is to have a national consensus on what constitutes the legitimacy of President Barrow in a democratic society. There are two basis of legitimacy to govern in a democratic society. The first legitimacy is constitutional legitimacy. The second legitimacy is electoral legitimacy.

To establish these two forms of legitimacy one must know what the Constitution says and determine how power is acquired through the ballot box. The 1997 Constitution empowers an elected president to serve for a period of five years under section 63 of the Constitution. However under section 65 of the Constitution a president may resign before the end of his or term of five years.

What has brought about controversy on the tenure of President Barrow is the agreement which was signed before he assumed the office of president which stated that he would serve for three years. After assuming office he has declared at a rally that he would serve his five year term and would even continue to seek office after completing his five year term.

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Some Gambians would want him to abide by the Coalition agreement of a three year term and voluntarily resign after three years. Others would want him to continue and serve his five year term.

As far as the Constitution is concerned, President Barrow has the prerogative to serve three years or five years. He is the one who should decide. Others could only express their opinion.

Anyone who differs with this opinion should join the political debate by expressing a contrary view that will be published in the requisite column for review.

Gambians should recall what happened during the impasse. Whilst Gambia succeeded in ensuring a peaceful transfer of power Libya went through a violent change, and up till today the Libyan people are unable to put the pieces together to establish a stable country.

What way forward for The Gambia is a question that all Gambians should ask. Unconstitutional takeover of power is not an option.

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