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Gambian lawmakers reject draft constitution over 3rd-term clause

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Gambian lawmakers allied to President Adama Barrow rejected a draft constitution bill Tuesday after fierce debate over a clause that would prevent him from running for a third term.

Officials in the West African state have for months discussed the new constitution, which is intended to strengthen the country after years of abuses under former dictator Yahya Jammeh.

He fled in 2017 after losing an election to Barrow, a relative unknown at the time.

Gambian parliamentarians last week began debating a draft constitution, which proposed a two-term presidential limit.

But there was heated exchanges over whether to apply that limit retroactively to Barrow, who came to power as a transition president.

Such a clause would prevent him from seeking a further two terms in office once the new constitution is on the books.

Twenty-three lawmakers voted against the draft on Tuesday, blocking the bill, which required a two-thirds majority in the 58-seat assembly.

“I am not going to vote for any retroactive law”, said assembly member and Barrow stalwart Saikou Marong.

The rejection came after the diplomatic representations of European Union, Britain, United States and Germany had on Monday urged the assembly to pass the bill.

“It is vital to the credibility of the current transition to truly democratic, accountable government that the people of The Gambia themselves are given the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the new constitution,” the statement said.

It added that a rejection “risks signalling abandonment by this transition government of one of its most significant commitments to the Gambian electorate”.

The draft constitution was due to be put to a referendum had it cleared the assembly.

Barrow has faced protests this year over his staying in office despite an earlier agreement with political parties to step down after three years.

Rights groups have also protested his government’s detention of journalists.

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