MPs retreat to draft report on poll reforms

Friday December 13 2019
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Parliament’s Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs chairman, Jacob Oboth-Oboth. File photo

Parliament’s Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is in the final touches on processing the government’s five electoral reforms Bills and is expected to present a report to the House next week, this newspaper understands.

Attorney General William Byaruhanga tabled five Bills on July 25 in which government proposed several reforms ahead of the 2021 General Election.

The reforms are comprised in 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.

The Committee chaired by Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South, Indep) embarked on scrutinising the bills on August 6 but was unable to complete the consultations by mid last month hence asking for extension of time.
Mr Oboth-Oboth told Daily Monitor yesterday that the Committee is set to hold a retreat within this week to compile the report.

“What I can tell you is that we are heading for report writing. Where and how it is written does not matter. Take it from me that you will hear from us next week,” he said.

Some of the amendments proposed by government are that a person elected to Parliament as an Independent candidate may form an alliance with a registered political party or organisation but the “forming of an alliance shall not be construed as joining that political party or organisation.”

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Government also wants all Independent candidates, including for presidential and parliamentary elections, to have ceased to be members of a political party a year to the nominations.

Under the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill, candidates shall within 14 days after nomination be required to inform the Electoral Commission (EC), the sources of their funding.

Government also in the Electoral Commission Amendment Bill wants the EC to have powers to declare an area a restricted one in the event of insecurity or disease outbreak.
The proposals also suggest for security personnel (police and military) to be allowed to vote at least five days to the general polling date.

Whereas the Committee is working against time to present to the House its recommendations about the government proposals, the Opposition have intensified their efforts to move with tabling parallel reforms that are in the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019 that is being privately moved by Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba.

Ms Betty Aol Ochan, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, said consultations have been carried out across the country by different teams of MPs. “From December 13 [today] to December15, we shall have a retreat. Now that the Bill has to be gazette, we have to talk about it and see how we will move as a team when the matter comes up on the floor of the House,” Ms Aol said.

Mr Niwagaba, having been granted leave mid-September to table a Private Member’s Bill, successfully petitioned the Speaker to direct the Clerk to Parliament to gazette it ahead of First Reading, after the Ministry of Finance declined to issue him with a Certificate of Financial Implication within the required 60 days as per the Public Finance Management Act, 2015.

Opposition proposals

Opposition proposals include two-term limits for presidents, repealing offices of vice president and prime minister and replacing them with a deputy president, reducing Cabinet to 21 ministers and State ministers and, public recruitment of Electoral Commission members.

Others are removal of Army representatives from Parliament; allowing registered voters to also challenge results of presidential polls, removing the office of resident district commissioners; holding presidential, parliamentary and Local Government elections on same day; and, making Leader of Opposition, Attorney General and his or her deputy as well as all ministers ex-officio members of Parliament.

mkthembo@ug.nationmedia.com

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