Thursday January 17 2013

‘Stubborn’ MPs could be chased from parties

By Yasiin Mugerwa & Mercy Nalugo

President Museveni yesterday hinted that his government was preparing a raft of constitutional changes that would, in effect, place MPs at the mercy of their respective political parties.

Already battling a surge in parliamentary activism on critical national issues, the President told his audience at the ruling party’s ongoing retreat in Kyankwanzi that the current constitutional provisions were not clear.
The Constitution does not say what would befall an MP who is expelled from their party, the President reportedly indicated.

He discussed a paper presented by his private secretary on Political Affairs, Mr David Mafabi, trends, challenges and prospects for Africa ideological conversion,” and criticised “careerism in politics”.

Party sources say he repeated a New Year threat to “crush” radio stations used by MPs whom he accused of fomenting unacceptable indiscipline in the NRM party.

He also took issue with the Kabaka of Buganda’s leadership which he reportedly suggested had allowed the promotion of “individualism” and “bean weevils” using the kingdom’s CBS radio.

The President said the proposed amendment of Article 83(1)g of the 1995 Constitution by Parliament, where he controls the majority, will provide that where an MP is dismissed from their party, he/she automatically loses the seat.
As it stands now, the article only says a member can only lose their seat either upon abandoning the party on whose ticket they were elected and joining another party, or on becoming an independent member.

Sources say this provision is frustrating a plan by the NRM to take disciplinary action, including possible expulsion, against MPs Vincent Kyamadidi, Wilfred Niwagaba, Theodore Ssekikubo, Mohammed Nsereko and Barnabas Tinkasiimire who are known for taking independent positions on controversial matters.

The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, yesterday accused the President of using the proposed constitutional amendment, which he said was in “bad faith”, to further curtail free speech and usurp the powers of Parliament.

“What the President is trying to do is simple: to legalise authoritarianism. It is very dangerous and such attempts should be resisted in public interest,” Mr Mafabi said.

The spokesperson for the NRM caucus, Ms Evelyn Anite, confirmed that Mr Museveni took a firm stands on what he considers indiscipline in the party.