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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Letters: How and why the opposition in Gambia lost! Part 2

Letters: How and why the opposition in Gambia lost! Part 2

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We have made the point in Part 1 that Barrow was able to win re-election largely because he used the politics of inducement, knowing the susceptibility to be induced of a generally indigent electorate.

Another factor we mentioned is the absence of a level playing field in the country’s political arena – actually, since the first Republic – due largely to the lack of political will to institutionalize clean and honest politics in the body politic by the ruling elite.

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Indeed, it was in the spirit of the struggle for meaningful electoral reform – a crucial pillar of system change – by members of the political class in the opposition, that Solo Sandeng was martyred and the top UDP leadership marching against state terrorism was imprisoned in 2016.

Thus the onus is and continues to lie on the ruling elite to be committed to fair play in politics!

But what has happened in this country – and, of course, elsewhere in Africa especially, is that once in government, the ruling party twitches the system to create an enabling environment for continually winning all elections.

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In such circumstances, it’s untenable to talk of free and fair elections, nor a truly functioning democracy.

Indeed, in all three past governments (of course, including Barrow’s first govt) the desire to go on and on after tasting the sweets of office trumped the constitutional requirement to play politics fair and square (idiom) meaning “honestly and according to the rules”.

And, as we’ve experienced in Gambia, such a situation creates room for the soldiers to step in in the guise of saving the people and the country.

Definitely, this was what happened in the first Republic, was evident in the second Republic and the skewed system is now working in favor of the incumbent, Adama Barrow, who just won re-election!

Barrow speaking at the hustings had said his goal is to win the presidential election, and then his NPP party wins the parliamentary and local government elections.

If the unlevel playing field persists, then be rest assured that Barrow can go on and on.

For, even though Barrow has said that he wants the adoption of the draft constitution 2020 to be part of his legacy, he also said very clearly that this adoption will come some time during his new five-year term.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed, but from the way he spoke about it, during his first post election news conference held at State House in Banjul, it is noteworthy that he did not say it’s a priority for him.

Which it should be, because without the new constitution in place, Barrow will continue to rule with the Yahya Jammeh-era constitution; when ideally the new constitution should have been in place to usher in the new govt – as the third Republic; and, definitely, the beginnings of the new democratic dispensation which we yearn for in this country.

Yes, we needed the new constitution in place, in tandem with reforms in a whole lot of areas, including civil service reforms. This would ensure we shield civil servants from the politics of their political bosses.

The security sector reform will keep the police and intelligence services out of politics, and electoral reform would keep chiefs and alkalos, for instance, out of partisan politics. ETC!

Then we would have something akin to system change, again, in the body politic.

System change means to create a level playing field, and give everybody a decent chance to have a shot at the presidency.

It is to ensure good management of public resources – whose spin off will be decent wages for workers and incomes for farmers, decent employment for youths and women, investment in education, health, affordable housing, and building infrastructure such as roads, bridges, enhanced electricity and water supply countrywide, modern telecommunications systems, and so on.

Realistically, it is about nothing more profound than that; for, indeed, this is all there is to talk of system change – in its superficial sense – in the Gambian context!

System change means ridding the system of opportunities for corruption in all areas, including the political, economic and social spheres.

System change means better management of govt finances, so that we would not need to receive budget support say from the EU or loans and grants from the IMF and World Bank.

It means directing our public funds to address priority needs of the population in health, education and food security.

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