QUESTION OF THE DAY
The following was sent to Foroyaa for further clarification:
“The question we Gambians are asking is not answered by ever this article and that is…… WHAT DID THEY IGNORE THE CONSTITUTION WHICH STATED THAT A PRESIDENT VOTED IN HAS A TERM OF 5 YEARS. Why is this ignored for three years???
We all know and agree on how noble it is for Jammeh to go but why did they have to ignore our constitution for a gentleman agreement????”
This person wants to know why the coalition leaders opted to have criteria for candidature which include a three-year mandate. As far as the constitution is concerned there is a five-year mandate and no term limit. Hence if the coalition just decided to come with criteria that give the presidential candidate no restriction at all in term limit, it would have meant that anybody selected would be given a licence to stay in power as long as he/she wishes, just like Yahya Jammeh. What use would it have been to remove Yahya Jammeh and give the person the licence to be a self-perpetuating ruler?
The objective of establishing criteria was to try to prevent the coalition president from being like Yahya Jammeh. The coalition aimed to put up a transitional government with a transitional president whose only role was to ensure the enactment of a new constitution, new electoral law, new institutions and a level ground for multi-party contest. The best way to achieve this was to have criteria where the coalition candidate would resign from his or her party so that he/she would be owned by all persons irrespective of party affiliation. He/she would also commit himself/herself to resign after three years after carrying out all the reforms to prove that he/she has no other aim but to be a transitional government. He/she was also required to accept not to participate in the next following election or to support any other candidate so that the ground will be level for multi-party contest after the end of the transition. The criteria were designed to eradicate incumbency and build the instruments and institutions that will make Gambia a democratic society.
Hence the reasons are very clear. The criteria were established to facilitate unity to bring about change. If most of the people who participated in the convention were told that they would be electing a person who would be given the licence to stay in office as long as she/he wanted, few would have participated and Jammeh would have still been here because no single personality or person would remove him at the time. What convinced the presidential aspirants who contested at the convention that unity was worth given a chance is the clear road map that the coalition president would only be a transitional president not an executive president; that he would preside over a nonpartisan cabinet supported by a nonpartisan national assembly to build a Gambia that all Gambians would be proud to own; a Gambia that would do away with political patronage, intimidation and abuse of incumbency so that elections will be contested on a level ground. This was the objective.
What is wrong with this objective? Needless to say, if after victory parties began to scramble for ministerial posts and for national assembly seats and the coalition criteria are honoured with disregard, we should just call a spade a spade by acknowledging that some have turned their backs on the criteria. Constitutional arguments are just meant now to back a change of heart.
As it stands the most important constitutional amendment that would have made it possible for elections to take place within 90 days of vacancy in the office of president after resignation is yet to be. Hence if the president resigns, it is the vice president who would serve the residue of his term. Without a vice president the speaker would serve the rest of his term.
Hence before calling for the resignation of the president, one should go to the drawing board to determine what the outcome would be. Hence instead of wrangling, Gambians should maintain a cool head and engage in seriously meant debate on the democratic future of the country. We cannot afford another change just for the sake of it. That’s how matters stand.