Over the past weeks and months the Coalition has managed to articulate non-partisan messages in order to appear as a unified unit in public. But it has become increasing apparent the mimicry unity could not bring together the parties’ combatants to strategically contest the forthcoming parliamentary election. The combatants seem unwilling to unleash their respectable positions for a compromised decision. There are suggestions from some quarters that the fragmentation was caused by ideological differences as members aspire to pursue their own party’s agendas, whatever the case is, the future composition of the Coalition seems less predictable, as it may dependent on the outcome of the parliamentary election. Perhaps, this would provide an opportunity for reconfiguration of the Coalition ’’. Who knows who is in, or who is out after election night? This represents the characteristics of multiparty politics, ambivalence at best, confusion and instability at worst.
Of course it is not unusual for political parties to divide over policies for ideological reasons. But it is politically prudent for the Coalition to agree on measures that are necessary for it to function as an effective government. Without a majority in the National Assembly the Coalition may not be able to accomplish what it sets out to achieve. Therefore, any form of strategic alliances or even in the spirit of alliances will greatly bolster its grip on power. That is what I call as Smart Politics, a politics that protects the ‘common good of all citizens’.
Certainly, the agreement forged to bring the nines parties together was effective in ousting the previous executive, but in conflict with the constitution. Arguably, by limiting the term of the Coalition to three years, this has tacitly limited the term of the president to the same period. A departure from the dictate of the constitution which sates this: ‘The term of office of an elected President shall——– be for a term of five years’. This raises the question whether the Coalition’s agreement is unintended violation of the relevant provisions of the constitution. By any interpretation, a citizen who has been elected under the mandate of the constitution has the legitimate right to serve for a period of five years, unless his/her presidency is invalidated by the reasons stated in the constitution. The rule of law is not satisfied by having rules of law or a law of rules, but it must guaranteed the fundamental human right, including citizens’ political rights. In this regards, the agreement cannot subvert the constitution.
From another perspectives agreement can be seen as a contractual agreement which only bound parties of the contract. In any case if we accept that, a contract can also be terminated by the conduct of it parties, it is sound to say that the Coalition’s stance on the parliamentary election may have sounded death knell for the agreement, because there are visible divisions among parties. Therefore, the fixed term stipulated in the constitution can only prevail to preserve the integrity of our supreme laws. In addition, it may not serve the economic interest of Gambians to hold elections within three years given the dire status of the economy. This suggests to me the self- imposed time limit is losing ground and demands political rethink.
Nonetheless, the combatants have already started campaigning, in a desperate search for votes. Their deliberations are bound to include, divisive issues, promises, and even personal vilification purposely designed to influence our political thinking. The point of political campaign is not about landing personal attacks on political opponents. It must focus on how a party intends to transform the lives of voters in clear and unambiguous terms, so as to equip voters with vital information required to make a political choice.
It is also pointless is for politicians to deliberate on policies that are impossible to achieve. As Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, there is no point in deliberating over issues that cannot make any material difference to the outcomes. In this regards, empty promises that failed to take into account economic reality of a country may never come to realisation, at disappointments of the voters. Indeed, prospective representatives have to act in responsive manner to the voters’ interests, but these interests must be captured in parties’ manifestos to allow post-election accountability. I do hope that all political parties are committed to building a fairer society that has the capacity to root out any structural inequalities.
Undoubtedly, the APRC seems to be in a better political position than most political parties given its 22 years of ruling. Although its support has been hemorrhaged by the rise of the GDC, it has the ability to hold a sizable proportion of its last votes if its machinery are tactically deployed. A pluralistic democracy requires participation of all political parties with divergent views representing different group. Surely that must only be nurtured to in order to empower all citizens regardless of their sex, race, abilities, age and ethnicity.
In conclusion, it seems right to suggest that the outcome of the parliamentary election will mark a new turning point in Gambians’ politics. Citizens’ participation may be instrumental in engendering such important political change. On the wise words of Plato (a Philosopher), albeit with slight alliterations; ‘‘one of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics, is that you end of being governed by your political enemies’’. So all citizens must participate in the forthcoming election to avoid the pitfall
Forward with the Gambia!!
Written By Solomon Demba