Re-elected Gambian President Barrow promises new constitution, term limits

FILE PHOTO: Gambia’s president-elect Adama Barrow gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambia's newly re-elected president, Adama Barrow, said on Tuesday that his government plans to draft a new constitution that would introduce presidential term limits, but fell short of saying whether he personally would seek additional mandates.

Barrow comfortably won re-election on Sunday, despite challenges from some opposition candidates who initially rejected the results. Election observers have said the poll was conducted fairly.

In his first news conference since the election, Barrow said that in addition to imposing term limits, a new constitution would restructure the polling process to include potential runoff polls if no candidate wins 50% of the votes.

"I promise Gambians and the world that my government will introduce a new constitution, which will include term limits and absolute majority," Barrow said.

Barrow, 56, will officially begin his second five-year term on Jan. 19, after being elected with 53% of Saturday's vote under the current simple-majority system.

He did not detail whether such term limits would be retroactive, or whether they would permit him to seek additional terms after his current mandate ends.

The current constitution, drafted in 1997 at the dawn of former President Yahya Jammeh's oppressive 22-year rule, does not include term limits. Jammeh lost to Barrow in 2016 and was later forced into exile.

Gambia's parliament last year rejected a revised constitution that included a two-term limit, which also would have prevented Barrow from using the new charter to reset his term count.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital, Banjul, on Monday in support of three opposition candidates who said they would not accept Barrow's election victory. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The otherwise peaceful election was seen as a test of stability for the small West African country, as it solidifies its democratic gains since Jammeh's ouster.

(Reporting by Pap Saine; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Bate Felix and Peter Cooney)

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