Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs failed to reach consensus on the contentious proposal to amend Article 102(b) and remove age limits, prompting MPs to author two conflicting reports regarding the scrapping of age limits for presidential candidates.
Parliament will convene in a highly-anticipated sitting tomorrow morning to debate the two reports on the Constitutional Amendment Bill, with the main report supporting the removal of age limits, while the minority report is against the proposal.
A marathon of sittings will end with a vote on the Bill, with the government keen to dispose of the polarising Bill before Parliament breaks off for the Christmas recess at the end of the week.
Fifty three witnesses were interviewed by the committee.
Eight MPs supported the minority report, while 20 backed the main report.
Kumi Woman MP Monicah Amoding is the only NRM MP who voted against the main report.
The authors of the minority report are Abdul Katuntu (FDC, Bugweri County), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Medard Sseggona (DP, Busiro South) Mathias Mpuuga (DP, Masaka Municipality) Monicah Amoding (NRM, Kumi District), Mohammad Nsereko (Independent, Kampala Central ), Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC, Kira Municipality) and Ann Adeke Ebaju (National Youth).
“The minority members ore of the opinion that repealing Article l02(b) at the moment is very dangerous as it is being done for only one possible beneficiary, the current president. Constitutional amendments are never made for [one person] but for posterity, peace, order and governance,” recommends the minority report.
The main report recommends the removal of age limits on grounds that they are discriminatory.
“Article 102 (b) of the Constitution marginalises the youth and elderly by prohibiting them from offering their candidature in a presidential election, “recommends the main report.
The main report makes a trade-off, recommending that Article 105(b) be amended to re-introduce presidential term limits, which were controversially removed in 2005.
MPs of the Seventh Parliament pocketed Shs5m each to remove term limits and allow President Museveni to contest again even after he had completed his two five-year terms.
To remove terms limits, Mr Museveni made a trade-off by allowing the return of the multi-party dispensation, a system he had always been critical of.
If proposals of the main report, which is supported by 18 NRM MPs and two NRM-leading Independents, are passed, Mr Museveni will be the major beneficiary as he will be freed up to contest again in 2021.
The main report also proposes amending Article 105(1) to extend the president’s term of office, raising the prospect of Mr Museveni serving upto 2023 before he is subjected to an election.
“African countries generally have extended the term of office of the president to a minimum of seven and a maximum of 10 years,” the main report proposes.
The idea of increasing the term of office for the president gathered momentum when Parliament’s Legal Committee interviewed Mr Museveni at State House, Entebbe and he argued that the term of office should be increased from five to seven years, because “leaders in Africa have much more to do”.
Because Article 105(1) is entrenched and requires a referendum, the NRM caucus last week instituted a committee led by Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutuna to draw ideas on how the legal hurdles can be resolved.
“The Committee is agreeable to the proposed amendment but notes that it is a requirement in the Constitution for such a decision expanding the term of office of the president beyond five years to be subjected to a referendum of the people,” the main report recommends.
Inside the reports
The minority reject the assertion by our majority brethren to the effect that Article 102(b) is discriminatory against people on account of old age within the meaning of Articles 21 and 32 of the Constitution. We agree with numerous stakeholders who distinguished discrimination from limitation or restriction.
Amendments on Article 104
(2) A petition under clause (1) of this article shall be lodged in the Supreme Court registry within 15 days [currently 10 days] after the declaration of the election results.
(3) The Supreme Court shall inquire into and determine the petition expeditiously and shall declare its findings and reasons not later than 45 days [currently 30 day] from the date the petition is filed.
(6) Where an election is annulled, a fresh election shall be held within 60 days [currently 20] from the date of the annulment.
Amendment of Article 61 of the Constitution
Article 61 of the Constitution is amended by substituting for clause (2), the following-
(2) The Electoral Commission shall hold Presidential, General Parliamentary and Local Government council elections within the first thirty days of the last one hundred and seventy two days before the expiration of the term of Parliament.”
Article 104 (2) to expand the time within which an aggrieved candidate can file a petition from 10 to 15 days.
Article 104 (3) to expand the time within which the Supreme Court will inquire into and determine the petition from 30 to 45 days.
Article 104 (6) to expand the time within which a fresh election is held after the annulment of a presidential election from 20 to 60 days.
Recommendations on holding elections:
(a) The relatedness of clause (1) and (3) be taken into account in determining the timelines proposed in those clauses.
(b) In determining when presidential, general parliamentary and local council elections are held, regard should be given to the timelines prescribed in Article 103 and 104 of the Constitution and adequate time is provided in order for the processes provided for in those articles to be complied with before expiry of the term of the President.
(c) Presidential, general parliamentary and local council elections are held within the first 30 days of the last 169 days before the expiry of the term of office of the President.
(d) The determinant of when presidential, general parliamentary and Local Government Council elections are held is the term of Parliament rather than the presidential term which is prone to change.