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The Chairperson of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, issued the draft Constitution today, 15th November 2019, recommending “absolute majority — for Presidential elections” and that “the President cannot hold office for more than two terms of five years each. Whether or not the terms are consecutive.”
This means that President Adama Barrow will only have one more term to run as President if the current draft Constitution were passed. On the other hand, CRC Chairperson Jallow, highlighted “considering the importance of the office of the President and as a way of ensuring dignity to the office and the Office holder after remitting Office, benefits are outlined for the President when he or she leaves office.”
Speaking before the CRC Chairperson issued his statement, CRC Secretary General, Omar Ousman Jobe highlighted that, “this draft Constitution is coming out at the same time as the draft revenue and expenditure estimates. The two most important policy documents in any modern state is first the Constitution and next most important document is the National Budget.”
According to the CRC Chairperson “the draft Constitution comprises of 20 Chapters (3 Chapters less than what is contained in the current Constitution); it has a total of 315 clauses.” This was something that the Diaspora requested for, a leaner Constitution.
One of the most important changes in the new Constitution is on Elections and the Independent Electoral Commissions. According to the draft Constitution “the current Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is being transformed into the Independent Boundaries Electoral Commission (IBEC). So, from IEC to IBEC and given the Constitutional authorities for the delineation of electoral boundaries” said CRC Chairperson, Justice Jallow. Another elections related provision demands that “only citizens of the Gambia may make contributions or donations to a Political Party registered in The Gambia.”
Some important provisions involving elections have been included in the Constitution including a definitive date for Presidential Elections which must now “be held 3 weeks before the end of the term of the incumbent President. And the winner of the elections to the office of President assumes office on the day after the date of expiry of the incumbent President’s term of office.”
Cross Section of CRC Commissioners
One constitutional provision which will stir public opinion is the requirements for Presidential candidates which “must hold an undergraduate degree and a minimum of 5 years working experience or a minimum of a Senior Secondary School leaving certificate or its equivalent plus 12 years work experience”. Given the range of qualifications and experience given there appears to be a trade-off between experience and educational qualifications.
The CRC Chairperson announced a lower age limit of 30 years for Presidential candidates and failed to announce an upper age limit. This prompted a question from one journalist to which the CRC Chairperson explained that the Public Consultations were not conclusive on the upper age limit. However, this provision could be explored further during the final consultation period ending on 15th December 2019.
One provision which will thrill anti-corruption enthusiasts is that “all candidates for elections to the office of President and National Assembly elections are required to declare their assets to the Anti-Corruption Commission at least 21 days before the elections”. All are expected to similarly declare their assets three months after remitting office.