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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Minority leader expresses dismay over opposition ‘disunity’

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Speaking recently to The Standard at his office at the National Assembly, he said: “Opposition are becoming their own problems- we cannot unite. I believe there should be no enmity among the opposition- we should all shoot at the same direction. We have to come together and reduce the power of the APRC. Nobody will come to The Gambia and help us how to change our system- we have to do it ourselves.”

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The opposition leaders have had several failed attempts in the past to form a political coalition owing to differences in the selection of a standard-bearer.

The minority leader said the opposition will barely have a ground to justify their criticism against the APRC leadership if they (opposition) continue to demonstrate the poor leadership qualities that have had their previous coalition talks stalled. 

“We the opposition are accusing the ruling party for not doing the right thing, yet among ourselves, we cannot unite. Any time we take a decision, we end up falling apart. What will that say about us? Take NADD as an example- when it was formed; the opposition had a good strength but we ended up failing. If we do not sit up properly, we are going to face a problem and that is what is facing us now,” he said.

“Now, it is only the NRP that is contesting the elections and despite our difference in party policy, we should have some support from others when we are contesting. If there could be unity amongst us, the opposition’s support during elections even after boycott should be in our favour.” 

Hon Jallow also berated the boycott decision by the Group of Six, the joint opposition parties that boycotted the last National Assembly elections on claims that the electoral ground is not level enough for the conduct of a multi-party elections, describing it as a “barren” move.

He said the election boycott has stripped the opposition of the valid representation they might otherwise have had if they participated in the last National Assembly elections, in the law making body to force the APRC leadership to concede to certain reforms they are clamouring for.

He said: “If they stand aloof and say “we are pushed out” that is not a good excuse because anywhere in the world you don’t change the system by not participating- you have to participate, challenge its anomalies and change the system gradually. Since 2011, what changes have the boycott brought for us? Nothing. We are asking the government and the Independent Electoral Commission to put everything right- that is what IEC and government should do but do we have an independent electoral commission? The chairman of that institution is selected by the president- I cannot say IEC is independent. Will you not dance to the tune of your employer? Of course, you will. In challenging the system, we should not just think of defeating the president, we should also devise means to make a firm presence in the National Assembly. 

“At the end of the day, it is not only about leadership but change and part of the change has to do with controlling the lawmaking body. So if you can’t get the presidency, control the National Assembly. The Republicans are not ruling US right now but they control the Congress and thus taking part actively in governance. It is not correct to say we are not participating in National Assembly elections because we won’t win. How did I come to the National Assembly? It was through elections. If you analyse the last parliamentary elections, you will understand that we could have had twenty opposition in the National Assembly by now. We could have done this through tactical alliance- each party put up a candidate in the electoral constituency you enjoy more support.”

He added: “There is a need for electoral reform but it will be difficult because if you, for instance, want to review the age limit in the constitution or any other undesirable clauses which are not entrenched ones, you will have to pass through the National Assembly and it is the APRC that controls the law-making body. This is why boycotting of elections was a terrible mistake because there are issues we would want treated which we would have done ourselves if we (opposition) are in the National Assembly in good number. The solution lies in contesting elections and getting the required number of National Assembly seats to push our agenda.

“There will be no reform because the National Assembly won’t pass them. I am the only opposition here. Do you think the APRC also will yield to these reforms if they know that can make them politically insecure? They won’t. But have we had the National Assembly, we can force them to consider these reforms or we also refuse to consider any bill they bring here and they will. If they think if they do the reforms they will lose the elections, they won’t change anything.”

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