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NRM party plots to amend Constitution

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YELLOW GIRLS: NRM delegates at the conference in Entebbe yesterday. They want amendments to the Constitution. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE 

By Sheila Naturinda & Mercy Nalugo

Posted  Thursday, January 14   2010 at  00:00

In Summary

If the ruling party resolves to amend the Constitution, the move will be the second major amendment made ahead of crucial elections.

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Kampala

Delegates attending the NRM National Executive Council meeting in Entebbe want the Constitution amended to separate voting dates for presidential and parliamentary elections.

The matter of the fresh constitutional amendments was captured in Secretary General Amama Mbabazi’s report, in which also suggested that independent candidates be outlawed.
“In some districts, there were suggestions that presidential and parliamentary elections should not be held on the same day,” Mr Mbabazi said in his 25-page report.

Why separate
He added: “Holding them on the same day leaves the presidential and parliamentary candidate each looking for his/her own vote.”

The report also suggested constitutional amendments to incorporate representation of elders in Parliament and Local Government Councils like other special interest groups.

While the NRM delegates’ conference, which was still under session by press time yesterday, adopted the universal adult suffrage for its party primary elections yesterday, the issue of new constitutional amendments is expected to be announced today, after the delegates, especially from upcountry stations, embrace the idea.

Party spokesperson Mary Karooro Okurut said last night that NRM would announce its delegates’ conference resolutions today, at the end of the. three-day conference.
If the ruling party resolves to amend the Constitution, the move will be the second major amendment made ahead of crucial elections.

In 2005, Seventh Parliament amended Article 105 (2) of the Constitution in which they removed term limits for the presidency. The earlier law demanded that a President could only serve for two terms each of five years. It was interpreted as a move aimed at helping President Museveni, who should have vied for a last term in 2006, stay in office.

Rigging avenue
Independent observers, however, argue that amending the Constitution to have separate elections could provide an avenue for rigging the elections.

Electoral Commission Chairman Badru Kiggundu yesterday said separate elections would mean revising its budget.
“It cannot pass now because it is late for such an amendment,” he told Daily Monitor by telephone.

If the NRM adopts proposed constitutional amendments today, the constitutional affairs minister will have to prepare a Bill for an Act of Parliament to amend the Constitution. The law states that the Bill can only then be passed if supported at the second and third readings by the votes of not less than two thirds of all MPs.

The NRM boasts over two-thirds support in Parliament and passing such a resolution should pose no challenge.
However, a legislator attending the conference said the proposal was brought in “bad faith with people looking like they were coached to beg for it”.

Delegates in favour of the amendments said the joint presidential elections were confusing people and would eliminate MPs who don’t perform but just win because they ride on the back of the good of the president
But the critics of the proposal say it is not cost-effective especially now that the elections body has numerous challenges.
The separation of voting was adopted after the 2001 general elections.