The Cabinet’s sub-committee should speedily prepare the Election Reform Bill for debate. This will fall in line with Opposition’s growing calls for reforms to deliver free and fair elections. This demand was recently reinforced when President Museveni declared the Electoral Commission (EC) as ‘corrupt’ and ‘lacking in integrity’ following NRM’s loss of ground in the Woman MP seat by-election for Luweero District.
Furthermore, a recent debate showed Ugandans are also weary that a transparent change or retention of power in an open poll is impossible under the current electoral dispensation. This accord among the principals makes urgent the need to fast-tracked dialogue to streamline a new system to organise and manage elections before the 2016 general elections. The chorus of voices make it imperative that the government heeds the calls to ensure the proposed reforms create basis for truly free and fair elections, deliver a peaceful political transition, and offer a solid foundation for the long-term democratisation of the country.
Besides, a recent opinion poll suggests, government should listen to the 75 per cent of Ugandans that the Opposition and President Museveni should sit down and agree to correct what is wrong with the EC and guarantee a free and fair elections in 2016.
This means the parties pursue an open, honest and respectful debate, which lies at the heart of any democracy and the seed of productive and peaceful political reform. Therefore, both the government and Opposition must seize this window of opportunity of constructive dialogue.
This can be achieved when the government listens to Opposition calls for a national consultation on free and fair elections. The Opposition believes the forum can forge a consensus on a new system for organising and managing fair and transparent elections.
What government should do is to examine propositions for a national dialogue involving Uganda’s core institutional networks, including MPs, religious institutions, trade unions, political parties, CSOs, and the business sector. Without a doubt, Ugandans can in the spirit of compromise, achieve agreeable and equitable resolutions to most of our national disputes. These dissimilar camps should not opt to legislate away political differences.
As a re-assurance, government should incorporate in the Election Reform Bill, views proposed by the CCEDU, a consortium of 800 Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy. This also means government should keep its word and incorporate reforms proposed in the National Consultative Forum of all registered parties.
A well-structured dialogue should break the deadlock on electoral reforms. Government and the Opposition should pursue a win-win-situation for the good of Ugandans.