MPs reject ban on independents

Friday February 28 2020

Debate session. Members of Parliament during

Debate session. Members of Parliament during the plenary session yesterday. MPs have opposed government’s proposal to have political parties block members from running for elections as independents. PHOTO BY BDAVID LUBOWA  

By MISAIRI THEMBO KAHUNGU

Members of Parliament have opposed government’s proposal to have political parties block members from running for elections as independents.

The proposal is among issues contained in the electoral reforms Bills that was tabled in Parliament by government in July last year.

Parliament debated the report from the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Wednesday evening.

Much as the amendment is likely not going to affect those vying for different positions in 2021 General Election since there is already less than a year to the October nominations, the MPs questioned the spirit in which the proposal was brought.

The MPs during a plenary sitting chaired by the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, said without political parties “cleaning their own house” due to the irregularities marring primary elections, people will still find solace in running as independents.

“We need to support what the Constitution says and the Minister (of Justice and Constitutional Affairs) must apologise for bringing such an amendment. Don’t joke with the issue of the independents,” Mr Elijah Okupa (Kasilo County, FDC) said as he applauded the committee which had also rejected the proposal on grounds that it is “unconstitutional”.

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Fort Portal Municipality MP Alex Ruhunda (NRM), said so long as most of the political parties continue to dance to the tunes of their founders on deciding who will hold the flag in an election, “we will increasingly see more independents in this country’’.

Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi, who is the secretary general of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa, the president of Justice Forum (Jeema), clarified to the House that while appearing before the committee, their parties made it clear that independents should be left to contest.

Much as MPs supported the government proposal that candidates for presidential and parliamentary elections should declare their source of funding to the Electoral Commission, they questioned some of the conditions provided in the Bills.

Government proposes that it will be an offence if a candidate is found to have received money from countries, persons and organisations that have openly expressed interested in removing a lawfully elected government. It also seeks to prohibit receiving money from terrorist groups.

Igara East MP Michael Mawanda (Ind) questioned why government would be interested in the declaration of the source of funding without also putting a cap on how much money a candidate should spend in campaigns. “Commercialisation of politics is an item that has killed democracy in Uganda,” he said.

Bills

Under debate
The Bills before Parliament are the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill, 2019; Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill, 2019; Electoral Commission Amendment Bill, 2019; Political Parties and Organisations Amendment Bill, 2019; and, Local Government Amendment Bill, 2019.

mkthembo@ug.nationmedia.com

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