The race for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament yesterday entered critical stage as eight aspirants appeared before the ruling party’s Central Executive Committee chaired by President Museveni to defend their candidature in a tense vetting process.
The decision by CEC to scrutinise the credentials of the contenders in the race for Speaker ties with Section 9 of the 2014 NRM Parliamentary Caucus Rules of Procure, requiring the top organ to vet and approve parliamentary leadership hashed out behind the scenes, with an anointing of sorts when a new Parliament begins, rather than a contested vote.
Sources close to CEC told Daily Monitor last evening that individual messages were sent to each of the eight candidates in the race, inviting them for vetting at State House at 10am. However, the meeting did not commence until past 3pm since the NRM electoral commission boss Tanga Odoi had to present the list of successful candidates to CEC.
NRM EC presents candidates
Dr Odoi presented Mr Oulanyah and Ms Kadaga as the only NRM MPs nominated for Speakership. He also told CEC that six candidates were nominated for the position of the Deputy Speaker.
The six candidates are Finance state minister David Bahati, Mr Hamson Obua of Ajuri County and Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka. Others are Kumi District MP-elect Monica Amoding, Kitagwenda MP-elect Abbas Agaba and Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo.
Ms Kadaga and Mr Oulanyah appeared before a 29-member committee and were reportedly asked to account for their decisions in the 9th Parliament and shed light on how each of them intends to wriggle the challenges in the 10th Parliament.
Sources told Daily Monitor that Mr Oulanyah marketed himself as “steadfast” and “experienced” in law and rules of procedure.
In Ms Kadaga and Ms Oulanyah, CEC members who talked to Daily Monitor but requested not be quoted talked of “a hard choice,” that has divided the committee.
Some members were pushing for the status-quo and others were backing Mr Oulanyah. There was a third group who had demanded that Ms Kadaga and Mr Oulanyah be forwarded to the Parliamentary Caucus sitting this Thursday to take a decision. By Press time, the president had not given his views on the two candidates.
Mr Ssekikubo apparently told CEC that he was not “an extremist” and that President Museveni needs him to deliver the promises in the NRM manifesto (2016-2021). He also told CEC that even when he was “unfairly” expelled from the party, he worked so hard to return and encouraged colleagues to do the same.
As CEC remained holed up in the meeting, the jostling for the race of Speaker intensified at Parliament, with MPs backing Ms Kadaga unveiling their next course of action-just in case their candidate does not sail through the NRM internal processes.
After failing to convince Mr Oulanyah to step down for Ms Kadaga, Lango MPs echoed concerns first raised by the Busoga Parliamentary Caucus, insisting that they will front Ms Kadaga as an independent candidate if she is either thrown out by CEC or does not clinch the NRM flag in the primaries.
The regional questions
“Incase our candidate does not go through NRM CEC, what will we do? CEC does not have the power to direct us. We will back the candidate to come as an Independent,” Erute North MP Charles Angiro Gutumoi told a press briefing at Parliament.
“We want the status quo [of Kadaga as Speaker and Oulanyah as deputy] retained because it takes care of the regional balance. Having an easterner as Speaker and a northerner as Deputy,” Ms Betty Amongi (Oyam County South) said.
To balance the equation of regional politics, the Lango MPs decided to back Mr Hamson Obua (Ajuri County) for the Deputy Speaker slot.
Ms Kadaga is running a more open campaign, unveiling MPs from different Caucuses to pledge allegiance to her while Mr Oulanyah has been campaigning rather covertly focusing on 83 per cent of the new MPs
At Parliament, Ms Kadaga has unveiled several regional caucuses in the Speaker’s boardroom on the 6th floor to openly pledge allegiance to her. She has unveiled caucuses from Busoga, Lango, West Nile and Karamoja. The Buganda Caucus remains locked in divisions on who to back for Speaker, with its chairman Godfrey Kiwanda backing Mr Oulanyah while a section of his executive is behind Ms Kadaga.
However, in the race for Deputy Speaker, Buganda Caucus has indicated backing Mr Ssekikubo. Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko yesterday unveiled a taskforce of 40 MPs to lead his campaigns for the position and officially announced that he would withdraw his candidature if Mr Ssekikubo who is touting himself as “a neutral and balanced candidate” is approved by CEC.