The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has rejected the proposal by the Electoral Commission (EC) to ban cameras and other recording devices from a polling station.
Led by the NRM secretary general, Ms Justine Kasule Lumumba, the party officials were yesterday appearing before the House committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs over the proposed electoral reforms.
“On the issue of cameras, we don’t support the Electoral Commission,” Ms Lumumba said.
The EC chairperson, Mr Simon Byabakama last week implored the committee to make it illegal for cameras and recording devices at a polling station.
If adopted, this will make it difficult for journalists to independently report about elections with evidence.
However, Ms Lumumba said the provision is wrong. “When the NRM took power in an election 1996, there was a booth with a black cover which we later agreed to remove to ensure that elections are transparent,” she said.
The NRM party, however, asked the committee to make it grave for candidates to disrespect campaign time frames by slapping heavy fines of up to 2,000 currency points (Shs40m) for presidential candidates; 1,000 currency points for parliamentary candidates (Shs20m) and 500 currency points (Shs10m) as well as 250 currency points (Shs5m) for district chairperson candidates and councillors who violate the 7am to 6pm timeframe for campaigns.
The proposed amendments presented by the Attorney General suggest a fine of 48 currency points (Shs960,000) or two years imprisonment for candidates who do not respect the for campaign timelines. A currency point is equivalent to Shs20,000.
The NRM secretariat also embraced all proposed amendments that seek to align the 2017 Constitutional Amendment that lifted the 75 year age cap for presidential candidates.
They also welcomed proposals that require independents to have prior permission from their political parties as well as restrictions on foreign funding. But Mr Sam Bitangaro (NRM, Bufumbira County) asked if the ruling party would accept to have a provision that requires political parties to unconditionally discharge any person who wants to seek election as independents.
Mr Jacob Oboth Oboth also asked why the situations where someone crosses from one party to another without a discharge certificate were not addressed.
A number of MPs including Mr Abdu Katuntu (FDC Bugweri) Ibrahim Ssemujju (FDC, Kiira Municipality) and Wilfred Niwagaba (Ind, Ndorwa East) pointed the secretariat to what they said were proposals aimed at disenfranchising Ugandans.
But Mr Oscar Kihika, the NRM director for legal affairs, said the proposals do not infringe on the rights of independents in anyway but rather seek to regulate how independents participate in a multi-party political dispensation.
Justice Forum view
The Justice Forum national chairperson, Mr Kibirige Mayanja, opposed the criminalisation of violations on campaign timelines, saying it is bait for the Opposition. “This is a minor offence and it should not constitute an offence for which candidates are fined with 48 currency points or imprisonment for two years or both,” said Mr Mayanja.