Saturday March 22 2014

MPs who want to extend 2016 polls are selfish and unpatriotic

By Obed K Katureebe

Uganda’s politicians never cease to amuse. Now word doing the rounds is that a section of MPs are designing an idea that they move a motion in Parliament to postpone the 2016 general election to 2021.

The architect of this, I am told, is Robert Sekitoleko ( Nakifuma County) and others. The MPs pushing that weird argument reason that because the donors have withdrawn aid due to the signing into law of Anti-Homosexual Act and the need to allow government enough time to make the electoral reforms, elections should be postponed.

These arguments are childish and outlandish and the proponents of such ideas should be treated with the contempt they deserve. I read nothing but huge amounts of selfishness among the schemers of this move. These MPs fear facing the electorates who automatically will be demanding full accountability of what they have been doing in the five years they have been in the August House.

It is common knowledge across the world that democracy has never been a cheap commodity. However, those who want to be counted as democrats must work tooth and nail to make sure that regular, credible and periodic elections are held minus any delay.

The MPs’ move, which I am told is so popular in the House, is said to be bipartisan because it serves the selfish interests of most MPs across the political divide.

The talk that government has no money is a fat lie. At least no government official has come out to explicitly state that they are having a financial squeeze because of the donor pull out. Besides, government has always financed the Electoral Commission since 2001.

The donors channel their money largely through the civil societies. Therefore, the excuse of government of not having money is a gimmick deployed by these unpatriotic and selfish MPs who want to circumvent the otherwise democratic and healthy process.

Of course, most Ugandans now know very well why our MPs want to extend their mandate using all possible shenanigans. They have accumulated unreasonable debts because they live a life like those of oil barons in the Middle East.

They now want to pass over their burdens to Ugandans who can’t wait to see them packing their bags and leave the August House. Indeed, records have it that over 60 per cent of our MPs usually don’t make it back to Parliament when they seek another mandate.

In addition, the MPs alone have no mandate to make such a constitutional amendment to be able to postpone the election. This whole process would require Cabinet to generate a memorandum which would later translate into a government whitepaper on constitutional amendment.

From there a Bill would be generated to be tabled before Parliament. How then are these MPs going to succeed with their move when they don’t have the full support of Cabinet?

Cabinet cannot support such a move. Democratic governments world over derive their legitimacy through regular, fair and credible elections. The National Resistance Movement that is in charge of Uganda’s affairs today must be looking forward to again renew that mandate and legitimacy through a popular vote.

Our Constitution is clear about postponing an election. Elections can only be postponed when a country is at war and the leadership has declared a state of emergency or when a natural disaster has happened which would have disrupted the state of affairs.

Article 77, Sub-section (4), states: “Where there exists a state of war or a state of emergency which would prevent a normal general election from being held, Parliament may, by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of all members of Parliament, extend the life of Parliament for a period not exceeding six months at a time.”

Thank God none of the above has happened in our country so far. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to warrant the postponement of the general election come 2016.

Do these MPs and other lower level leaders ever imagine how much backlash the postponement of the election would cause. There are millions of Ugandans who have invested their time and resources anticipating dislodging some incumbent politicians from those posts.

What would government tell such citizens because they want to exercise their legitimate right of representing their people through a popular vote? Let all those scheming for such futile attempts shelve their embarrassing proposal before they get totally humiliated.
The writer works with Uganda Media Centre