I want to express my view regarding the first big issues that our country’s National Assembly members are going to face in the coming weeks. These issues are elections of the speaker and deputy speaker of National Assembly by members of house of Representatives. There are calls in some quarters by some political activists that the Gambia needs a non-partisan speaker who will serves as a unifying agent among different political parties leaderships and members of National Assembly . I think such calls lacks political merits and understanding of duty of a speaker.
The position of speakership is an administrative position which requires political leadership , experience and knowledge about legislative body and formulation of laws in the House of Representatives. A speaker being the head of National Assembly has responsibility to ensure that there is an order and decorum which encourages substantive debate in the house. He or she also has responsibility to prescribe the oaths of office to members and to enable members have access to house floor to debate issues of national importance. The speaker as a chair of house meetings also has a duty to implement house rules and procedures as well as participate in selection of various committees within the National Assembly. The Gambia’s constitution gives the president the power to nominate members to the National Assembly. Section 93(1) indicates that ” the speaker of the National Assembly and the deputy speaker shall be elected by the members of the Assembly from among the nominated members ” . From this constitutional provision , it is not only important for the president to nominate well qualified citizens to the National Assembly but it is also equally important for the members to elect someone with significant political leadership skills, experience and knowledge about the job description of a speakership. The Gambia’s constitution like The United States constitution gives the power to House of Representatives to elect the speaker. In USA , the representatives of each political parties in the house such as republicans and Democrats select one member from each party and house members vote for these two select members . A select member who wins the majority support mostly from the dominant party in the house becomes the speaker . This is how speakers are selected whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat. This is evidenced by selection of Mr Paul Ryan, a republican as the current speaker who was supported by House of Representatives dominated by republicans.
The main reason of having the speakership in this democratic manner is to have smooth functioning of the house in pushing forward legislative agenda and its successful formulation of policy proposals into law . A speaker is always responsible for passing of legislative agenda supported by the majority members in the house. A speaker like any political leader must not only be an influential person but also have integrity and sense of patriotism . A speaker having a significant political influence and experience within his own party is a good thing since politics is all about convincing people to support an agenda. This doesn’t mean that the speaker should also have 100 % support of his own party on every legislative agenda. It is noteworthy to see some political activists idolized the power and influence of speaker Paul Ryan in USA House of Representatives but at the same time they failed to educate readers that Mr Ryan , the current speaker is in fact elected by republican majority in the House of Representatives . How can these activists recognized the power and influence of Mr Ryan in the USA House of Representatives but failed to recognize that such power and influence can only be realized through political leadership and experience he gets from his own party? Mr Ryan’s power and influence is also determine by the support he may or may not receive from the majority members in the house. Example, recently President Trump’s healthcare legislative agenda proposal supported by speaker Paul Ryan to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to repeal and replace president Obama’s healthcare law known as Obamacare, was defeated in the house because of lack of republican support. Thus, Mr Trump’s healthcare legislative agenda proposal was not supported by both republicans and democrats in the house. This indicates that it is important to have House of Representatives who truly care about the common interest of the people.
There are those who suggested that we need a non-partisan speaker with no political leadership influence , skills, experience and, or affiliation with political parties in the house. A non-partisan speaker will make the job of a speakership very difficult to achieve legislative success . Since the act of legislative process involves politics, it is in the best interest of the country to have a speaker with political leadership skills , influence and experience as well as affiliation with political party especially the party with majority seats in the house . This is because a non-partisan speaker will not have significant relationship with representatives in the National Assembly , lack knowledge about policy proposals of coalition government or political parties platform to help in successful reforms legislation. To achieve the agenda of coalition government , the position of speakership must come from the party with majority seats in the National Assembly. This will makes it easier to push forward constitutional, political and economic reforms agenda of the coalition government without delay. UDP has the biggest political capital and influence to make any reforms. This is why Gambian people have overwhelmingly supported and voted for UDP’s candidates in National Assembly election. We have to admit the fact that UDP is the force to be reckoned with and it is the most important pillar of the coalition government. Therefore in order for the country to be on the progressive path and to realize its reforms agenda , speakership must come from UDP political party. It seem that some Gambians are still in denial or refusal to accept the fact that UDP has the biggest political capital as evidenced by recent resounding landslide victory. I hope National Assembly members will elect the speaker from UDP leadership so that the aspirations and will of the people can be achieved during the transition period. Congratulations to all elected members of the National Assembly.
Thank you .