To suggest that the result of the just concluded presidential election was a landslide for President Barrow’s NPP-led coalition would be the understatement of the year; it was a brutal political earthquake, whose tremor is yet to even abate. After everything said and done over the preceding eventful five years, the Gambian people decided and the weight and strength of their democratic verdict leaves very little room for any credible polemical exercise on the subject matter. Well, this is at least the view of most fair-minded people and it must not come as a surprise that such is a view with which I fully agree. I must however concede that exploring the slew of theories as to the mechanics behind why people voted the way they did, although an interesting exercise, on balance, it is a distraction which I am yet to be convinced meets sufficient threshold to be accorded priority over matters of much more pressing public interest concern. Realistically speaking, the public interest priority for now is to focus on preventing circumstances which will give rise to the diminishment of meaningful democratic scrutiny of the Executive branch of government. In practical terms, this means preventing the emergence of ‘rubber stamp’ National Assembly 2.0.
With the above said, it is fairly reasonable to venture that by re-electing President Barrow for a further five years, the Gambian people did not intend that he be less accountable to them than he was in his first term. That said, the people’s civic option to continue to be able to meaningfully keep the President and his Executive on check must be kept alive and this can only be achieved by disarming all possibilities for the NPP and its coalition partners winning a majority of the seats in Parliament, in the coming National Assembly elections. I suspect that such a firm nudge would trigger the question: why? In fairly straightforward terms, our Parliament is the institution which makes laws upon which the President rely to govern, examine and approve budgets to fund the policies and affairs of the government as well as scrutinise the affairs of government institutions, public offices and public office holders whenever such need arises. Effectively, the function of the institution of Parliament is such that, its domination by NPP and its partners will likely hinder scrutiny at best or, set Gambian democracy on a risky path. This is not unique to President Barrow or the NPP but rather, it will always be the case and must always be a consideration weighing on every voter’s mind regardless of who occupies the presidency.
For reasons of clarity, I am definitely not implying any premeditated evil intent on the part of the NPP etc., but what I am indeed saying is, government MPs are more likely inclined to support than they are to scrutinise matters before them for which the government has an interest. So even without any bad faith and with an abundance of good intention, this is open season for an invitation for quite a lot of things to go wrong very quickly — in other words, like the old adage goes: ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. From the thriving of corruption and nepotism under the PPP to the naked impunity and brutality under the APRC government, the domination of Parliament by these regimes had everything to do with why they governed in the appalling manner in which they did.
If by this point you are left wondering whether it is my position that a government dominated Parliament is a precursor for bad governance, please wonder no more because that is indeed my position. I hasten to add that our political and governance history firmly supports this view.
Generally speaking, it is factually the case that enormous progress has been registered in the arena of democratisation, civil liberties and freedoms over the past five years to date. However, as this transpires in circumstances whereby the government does not control Parliament, it will be grossly mistaken to assume that such will continue to be the case in the event the government dominates Parliament, hence why members of the opposition whom are contemplating giving Parliamentary elections a pass must carefully reconsider the wisdom of such self-inflicting consideration.
I would like to think that preventing a government dominated Parliament is one issue about which there is a solidarity on the principles of the subject matter among opposition political parties and politicians. The upshot of such obvious strategic reality of course does not lead to the logical conclusion that the Gambian opposition will coordinate in the manner in which any other rational actor in their position would, i.e. have a pact so that they do not contest against eachother in constituencies held by an opposition MP and they coordinate their campaigns to encourage tactical voting against a government dominated Parliament. After the avoidable Presidential election defeat thanks to an irrational resistance to cooperate in pursuit of a mutual objective, I am certainly not holding my breath in anticipation of an opposition pact. One thing I am very certain of is this: the opposition are up against a very strategic-minded, determined and victory-hungry actor and, unless they work together to survive, they will die together divided. The choice is theirs.