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Electoral reforms trigger heated debate in Mbale


Electoral reforms trigger heated debate in Mbale

Public hearing at Mbale District Headquarters

Public hearing at Mbale District Headquarters

As the country gears up for the 2021 general elections, a section of members of the public have expressed reservations with provisions in the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Bills.

While meeting the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, youths expressed discontent with clause 10 (a) of the Parliamentary Elections Bill, which states that, “a person is eligible for an election as an Independent if that person is not a member of a registered political party or organisation”.

In a heated public hearing at Mbale District Headquarters last week, the youths said that the clause, which bars candidates from contesting as independents once they have participated in party elections, is unfair.

The clause adds that such a person should have ceased to be a member of a party 12 months before nomination.

Bugisu sub-region UPC chairman, Mike Kasola, said the clause erodes fundamental human rights of an individual enshrined in Article 20 of the Constitution.

Abasi Wetaka also from UPC added that setting up a constitutional review commission would have been the first step; then an overhaul of the Constitution in order to make the laws in line with orders of court.

Not everyone was opposed though. James Wadada, NRM Media Panelist Association General Secretary supported the move.

On the Presidential Elections Bill, Samu Makayi, one of the youth representatives proposed that the incumbent steps aside during electioneering and hands over power to either the Speaker or the Chief Justice.

Sironko District Youth Councillor, Nansike Asumin rejected the proposal for joint rallies for candidates.

“Our politics in the villages is not politics of dillydallying; let the status quo remain,” she said.

Esther Akello, a journalist, called for protection of the media during campaigns. She cited incidents during the Arua Municipality by-elections where journalists were harassed by security forces.

The Coordinator Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda for Eastern Region, Yusuf Makwata, called for reinstatement of presidential age limits. He explained that this would establish political order and avert Uganda’s history, which is characterised by political and constitutional instability.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Jackson Oboth Oboth, said it was important for the committee to receive public views.

“We thought we needed to bring these bills to the public to get a few opinions from those willing. Contrary to earlier practices where the committee sat at Parliament with technocrats, this time, we have dispatched members for regional consultations,” Oboth Oboth said.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee is receiving views from the public on electoral reforms currently before Parliament.

The committee is meeting Local Government leaders, youths, cultural, religious and opinion leaders across the country.

The five Bills before the committee are: the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The others are the Political Parties and Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2019.



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