House divided as MPs pass new election laws

Friday July 10 2020
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Speaker Rebecca Kadaga presided over the House. FILE PHOTO

Parliament was yesterday in a clear split as majority members overpowered their minority counterparts to pass Regulations for Political Party Elections.
This means that parties will have to hand-pick their candidates for the different elective positions in a move perceived to contain a possible spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

No amount of convincing, despite reasons by mainly the Opposition, would be entertained by all jubilant members from the ruling National Resistance Movement.
“What if your party calls for a delegates conference to be attended by one person per district and they pronounce themselves on candidates? Let us not just reject the minority because it was read by the Opposition, we should read and argue with our minds and not emotions,” Mr Reagan Okumu (Independent, Aswa County) said.
Kilak North MP Anthony Akol (FDC) also warned his NRM counterparts against merely supporting something bad because it is from their party as it may work against them in future.

“Supposing the Central Executive Committee of your party chose to handpick a candidate that is not you, you are the victim. We are not saying that there should be no elections but the elections must be within the law,” he argued.
However, the majority NRM could listen to none of these.

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Busiro East MP Medard Sseggona (left) presented the minority report and Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South) read the majority report.

When time came for voting on the majority report, despite a number of voices saying “nay” the Speaker, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, said: “The Ayes have it.”
The main report took the day.
The majority report presented by Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth (Ind, West Budama South) was signed by 20 out of 29 members.
The report presented three recommendations. That the regulations should only apply to infectious diseases that are notified under sections 10, 11 and 27 of the Public Health Act.

The regulations be expanded to include other matters that can affect the holding of normal party activities, including exigencies posed by a state of emergency or a state of war in Uganda or in any part thereof.
That the regulations be terminated upon the lifting of the restrictions under which they were brought. However, the Opposition argued that what Parliament was doing was in itself an illegality because it is a direct infringement on the Constitution.
Presenting the minority report which was signed by four members, Mr Medard Sseggona (DP, Busiro East), who doubles as the Shadow Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Opposition argued that what was important was to respect the Constitution.

He also said the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs should “be urged to present to Parliament comprehensive amendments in the Constitution and the Political Parties and Organisations Act to transit the country through the Covid-19 pandemic. These should include a comprehensive plan of how the government will go through the period of the pandemic.”
All these fell on deaf ears.