Parliament- The NRM caucus has approved a new set of rules which will radically change how the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament are elected.
The party says the new rules are intended to rein-in party MPs who deviate from internally agreed positions.
They also seek to help the NRM tighten its grip on the designation of member MPs to committees, particularly to coveted positions of committee chairpersons and deputies.
A document circulated by NRM chief whip Justine Lumumba recently states that the rules consider “various NRM interests, conduct of the member and the interests of the member” for an MP be designated to a committee.
NRM legislators vying to be elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker shall now be selected by the caucus, before being fronted for the two posts at an election in Parliament where the ruling party currently enjoys a huge majority.
Any NRM MP is eligible to express an interest in either of the positions, which interest must be made known in a letter written to the chairperson of ruling party’s electoral body, the new rules provide.
The electoral body is then expected to forward names of all who would have expressed an interest to the party’s top decision-making organ, the Central Executive Committee which would vet and subsequently recommend to the caucus.
Under the rules, the party’s electoral body would nominate a date for the internal election by the caucus and also assume the role of convening the caucus for that purpose.
This is a departure from past procedure where interested MPs were allowed to campaign for support ahead of Parliament’s formal election of officials to either post.
In 2011, Vice President Edward Sekandi (then Speaker) was persuaded not to take on Ms Rebecca Kadaga (then Deputy Speaker) for the position of Speaker for the Ninth Parliament.
Under the Constitution, MPs choose both the Speaker and Deputy from amongst their number.
But in a situation where the ruling party is overwhelmingly in the majority, its internal decision on who should assume that office renders the actual election on the floor of the House a formality.
The ruling party also seeks to crack the whip on members who “violate the NRM code of conduct, act contrary to the caucus position without leave and for behaviour which brings the caucus image into disrepute”.
Non-attendance of Parliament and committee meetings will also attract punishment from the caucus, though no explicit action is stipulated, according to the new rules.
“Issuing of statements or causing the issuance of statements, documents or recordings pertaining to the deliberations of the caucus to the media and or the general public without express consent from the chairperson,” will also attract disciplinary action, reads part of the rules.
In April last year, the NRM expelled four MPs, accusing them of being “rebellious” after they opposed several positions of the party in Parliament.
The new rules also seek to restore order in the NRM on the election of MPs to coveted positions to regional Parliaments, the Pension Board and the Parliamentary Commission.
The NRM nominates members to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), Pan African Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
In 2011, two NRM candidates, Ms Margaret Zziwa and Ms Dora Byamukama, jostled for the position of the Eala Speaker with the former controversially emerging the winner.
The fall-out from the controversy led to President Museveni issuing a stern rebuke against Speaker Kadaga and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, accusing the duo of causing the crisis.
The new rules come at a time when the party is convulsed by internal strife over a resolution by its MPs proposing Mr Museveni as the sole NRM presidential candidate for the 2016 polls.
Article 82 says: “...The Speaker and Deputy Speaker shall be elected by Members of Parliament from among their number. A person shall not be qualified to be elected a Speaker or Deputy Speaker if he or she is a Vice President or a Minister. Subject to Article 81(4) of this Constitution, no business shall be transacted in Parliament other than an election to the office of Speaker at any time that office is vacant. The Chief Justice or a judge designated by the Chief Justice shall preside at an election of a Speaker, and the Speaker shall preside at an election of the Deputy Speaker. An election to the office of Deputy Speaker shall be held at the first sitting of Parliament after that office becomes vacant...”