President Barrow and his cabinet

(JollofNews) – The outcome of the recent parliamentary election is ringing endorsement of the UDP as a dominant political force. The key challenge for our new democracy now is how to create an effective opposition force that has the capacity to face up to a dominant political force.

As oppositions remain fragmented and divided, this raises the question whether the UDP’s absolute majority is likely to lead to the insulation of one dominant-party system. Obviously, there is an intrinsic relationship between the attainment of a dominant status and the effective opposition’s concept.

In this sense, the ineffective opposition is likely to enhance the dominant political force’s ability to consolidate its support base, and ultimately engender the decline of the oppositions.  This may well be prevented if the oppositions act together on common grounds, to advance the aggregated interest of the society. Failing to do so, the ruling elite will remains unaccountable, and many more self-serving missions seem inevitable consequence.  In my view, such pitfall poses the greater threat to equal political representation than the overstated tribal divisions.

Our unity to advance the collective good of the society seems an attractive choice, rather than pontificating about tribal divisions that are overly exaggerated to benefit the proponents. We are Gambians; we transcend tribes to build a fairer and pluralistic society. The former USA President Barrack Obama eloquently said this, “the future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common, as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict. ”

The President’s assertion captures two main features of multicultural society, namely, conflicts and unity. The former can be avoided if we accept our differences as distinctive tribes and work for the collective good. The latter is necessary for the stability of our country as we come together to build a prosperous Gambia. The same proposition is espoused by Philosopher Will Kymlicka, in his theory of Liberal Multiculturalism, he postulates that a greater integration of the communities is better achieved if different groups respect and preserve each other distinctiveness.  We are bound together through marriages and friendships for centuries. Recognising each other distinctiveness has allowed us to live in an inclusive society. So let us remain committed such values to imbue unity among all tribes.

While the UDP appears to have gained the support of the major tribes, it is representative of Gambians’ society as its MPs hail from different ethnic backgrounds. It may be controversial, but coherent for individuals to align themselves with a political party through a tribal line. Tribal politics is distinct identity political practice deploys by many political parties in order assume political power.

Of course, political parties are likely to exemplify values such as cultural practice, language that are essential to tribes so as to influence the political thinking of the voters. This may fan the flames of political discontent, but it seems necessary so to attain political power. In any case, if political parties are to be successful in bringing out meaningful changes in ordinary Gambians’ life they must attain power by any reasonable means.  After all, political power tends to grow out a barrel of a gun. So it is a realistic expectation for political parties to deploy tribal politics in furtherance of their political ambitions. What seems abhorrent is the differential treatment of one tribe at the expenses of others without any legal justification. Such principle cannot sit comfortably with the notion of equality.

Nonetheless, the opposition must succinctly scrutinise the legislative process of the government to protect the interests of those they represented. A scattered gun approach may not be so effective in holding the government to account given the absolute majority of the UDP. What seems necessary is a united opposition force with common objectives to balance the power of the incumbent.  Indeed, the less effective oppositions are, the more their ability to oust an incumbent diminishes. This was self-evident in the way in which the Coalition attained political power.

It is a given fact when there is no realistic prospect for a political party to form a future government,’ the party’s protagonists will desert the party as the promise of a change disappears into a distant future. Consequently, series of political capitulation (in Gambian’s political term cross carpeting) to the ruling party may follow to splinter the parties’ support base. In this regard, the party in question will find it inherently difficult to build a formidable political force capable of winning the political power. Take, for instance, the NCP was in similar position for many years without increasing its electoral success. In fact, its support was in serious decline. Similarly, the re-invention of the PPP seems to have spectacularly failed to reinvigorate its former support base. The APRC’s heavy loss provides another explanation why voters are likely to desert a political party which is deemed to have no chance of assuming power.

The fact is that it was unconvincing to the voters that these parties had a realistic of winning political power. Therefore, there was no need to vote for impotent political parties that may not bring out change. It is safe to say, an effective and united opposition can only provide political parties with a realistic path to government. It can also be seen as an effective way of ousting entrenched ruling elite.

In conclusion, while the UDP represents a dominant political power in the Gambia, an effective opposition seems necessary to balance the power in the legislature, so as the other organs of the state in order to protect all Gambians’ interests. Failure to do so, our democracy runs the risk of being reduced to one dominant- party system. That may transform itself into a light dictatorship with the ability to control all narratives through media, at the expense of our well-fought democracy.

Forward with the Gambia!
Solomon Demba