Saturday May 3 2014

Opposition wrong to call for disbandment of the EC

By Obed K Katureebe

The call to disband the Electoral Commission(EC) by members of the Opposition is driven more by emotions and fury that is fuelled largely by misinformation and lack of information. For quite some time, opposition parties in Uganda have been crisscrossing the country telling members of the public that we need electoral reforms. They are also demanding for the disbandment of the current EC.

Among the many reforms the Opposition are talking about is that the EC should be reconstituted with political parties having representatives on it.

They want presidential term limits reinstated and government to reconstitute the role of security organs in the electoral process.

On the face of it, their demands look legitimate because any rational Ugandan would want positive electoral reforms that would make the electoral results more credible and believable by all parties involved. Electoral malpractices do not hurt members of the opposition only but every participating member in equal measure.

Therefore, it is in the interest of all Ugandans to have electoral reforms for the country to continue registering credible electoral results if we are to entrench and nurture the culture of democracy.

However, the Opposition seem to be having other intentions but pretend to be advocating for electoral reforms. Foremost, after clearly and publicly outlining what they want to be included in the reforms, they should engage the relevant organs of government to have them operationalised . For example, has the opposition engaged the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for meaningful dialogue in which the two parties would agree on how to proceed since most of the demands require constitutional amendments?

I am reliably informed that Cabinet has already tasked all ministers with legal background to constitute a committee that would study and draft a proposal to make constitutional and electoral reforms. This, therefore, means that both government and the opposition are literally in agreement to have positive electoral reforms.

The right institutions for the opposition to engage in electoral reforms are Parliament and the Interparty Organisation Dialogue which is a forum for all politic parties represented in Parliament. True, the civil societies and other members of the public can be engaged but this can only be at a secondary level.

The idea of disbanding the EC as demanded by the Opposition is laughable. This is because the top managers of the commission are vetted by both Cabinet and Parliament. Indeed, our Parliament has rejected other people suggested by the President for specific appointments when their integrity was found wanting.

The idea of bringing into the EC people representing different political parties is very defective. This is because any attempt to implement that will defeat the very notion of the independence of the EC. Certainly, these members from the different political parties will be pushing for the interest of their parties and not playing non partisan roles as the commission is supposed to be. The commission should be free of any political interests.

If members of the Opposition do feel that the EC should be insulated from any Executive influence, they should push for new legislations that will make members of the EC feel more secure and so sold to execute their duties without fear or favour. Those laws could empower the commission to have enough resources in time to be able to perfect their work minus any blame games.
Unfortunately, the opposition is consumed with political rallies across the country that can only enrich the populist agenda than address the real substance at stake.

In fact, the opposition packaging of the demand for electoral reforms now sounds so suspect that they are literally affirming what some pundits have been putting across that the whole idea of upcountry tours is to rebrand opposition kingpin Dr Besigye who will fielded as single opposition candidate come 2016.

There are those who think that the opposition is trying to reignite the now dead walk-to-work through berating government as being insensitive to their general social problems. Of course these allegations come up because the proponents of the electoral reforms rarely talk about those reforms during the public rallies they hold but instead use the platform to scold government with all nature of accusations.

Finally, unless the opposition changes their strategy and engage Parliament and the Executive to make the necessary electoral reforms in time, people are will begin questioning their intentions. It would be totally wrong and unbecoming to call for the disbandment of an institution like the EC.

Let us on the other hand push for the disbandment of the inadequacies that might be impinging on them as they work to hold cleaner elections

Mr Katurebe works with Uganda Media Centre- Office of the President.