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BILL SEEKING MORE SEATS FOR WOMEN FAILS TO PASS

At the Parliament

The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2021 has failed to proceed to a third reading following the Speaker’s ruling during the sitting on Monday the 21st February of the First Ordinary Session in the 2022 Legislative Year.

Voting on the bill which sought to provide fourteen reserve seats for women and two for persons with disabilities in the National Assembly had been rescheduled due to lack of quorum on Thursday.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Mariam Jack Denton ruled that the Second Reading on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 is negative for want of the required threshold to carry the motion for Second Reading of the Bill.

She said the decision is cognizant of section 226 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia and Standing Order 16(15) of the National Assembly. She observed the fact that “an Ordinary Session of the Assembly must end sine-die at some point and that the current session (First Ordinary Session 2022) ends on the 28th February, 2022.”

It could also be recalled on Thursday 17th February, 2022 that there were thirty-five Members present, falling short of the required threshold of forty-two for voting to proceed.

As a result, the Speaker exercised her discretion as presiding officer, given the importance of the proposed Constitutional amendment, to suspend the voting until Monday 21st February 2022 to sustain the process.

“[T]oday also, the number present (i.e. 34 NAMs) is confirmed by the Table Office to be less than the requirement for voting to proceed on the Second Reading of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021”, she informed the Members

Speaker Jack Denton observed that the situation the Assembly is witnessing over the weeks is unusual in the procedures and proceedings, noting that the National Assembly has never encountered situation where voting on a Second Reading of a Bill was hampered because of the absence of the required threshold.

The first reading of the bill was done on Thursday 10th February 2022 the person-in-charge of the Bill, the Hon Member for Banjul South.

A week later the second reading was followed by debate on the merits and principles of the Bill.

Section 226 2(b) of the 1997 Constitution mandatorily requires that a Bill for an Act of the National Assembly amending or altering the Constitution shall not be passed by the National Assembly or presented to the President for assent unless it is supported on the SECOND and THIRD readings by the votes of not less than three-quarters of all the members of the National Assembly.

Standing Order 16(15) also requires that: “In any instance where the Constitution requires a fixed majority to decide on a question, the Assembly shall not proceed to a vote on that question unless and until a number of Members equivalent to such fixed majority is present at the time for voting.”

Three-quarters of all the Members of the National Assembly is forty-two.

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