BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambian lawmakers loyal to President Adama Barrow on Wednesday said they had voted against a new constitution that would have barred him from serving two more terms because the charter’s retroactive provision was unlawful.
After days of intense debate, 31 lawmakers in the West African nation’s parliament voted to reject the draft constitution on Tuesday, while 21 voted to approve it for a national referendum.
The laws included a new two-term limit for presidents, which would have applied retroactively, preventing Barrow from emulating other West African leaders who have recently used new constitutions as reset buttons on their mandates.
“We don’t legally have the power to pass this draft constitution with a retroactive clause,” said minority leader Samba Jallow, whose National Reconciliation Party backs Barrow’s National People’s Party.
Lawmaker Saikou Marong, who also supports Barrow’s party, said he voted against the constitution for the same reason.
Barrow came to power after a 2016 election, ending 22 years of authoritarian rule by Yahya Jammeh.
After winning plaudits for committing to respect rights and investigate abuses under Jammeh, he has faced sometimes violent public protests since he reneged on a promise to step down after three years in office.
Gambia’s next presidential election is scheduled for 2021. Unless a new constitution bill is proposed, Barrow will have no limits on how many five-year terms he can seek.
(Reporting by Lamin Jahateh; Additional reporting by Pap Saine; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Alex Richardson)