On morality of crossing from one political party to another

Saturday August 22 2020

A group of DP MPs recently joined National Unity Platform (NUP). Since all the DP MPs who joined NUP were from Buganda region (most Baganda don’t like their region to be referred to as central region), some observers have read this as an act of ‘consolidation’ (or in better English: Buganda nationalism).

But I am more focused on the morality of the phenomenon of ‘Crossing the Floor’. In the First Parliament, almost all DP and KY MPs crossed the floor to join UPC (the ruling party). In the 1980s, almost all DP MPs from Busoga (except Prof Yoweri Kyesimira?) crossed the floor and joined UPC.

What has drawn my interest is that whereas the crossings mentioned above were from the Opposition to the ruling party, the recent crossings are from Opposition to Opposition. From a purely dispassionate academic view point, what does this mean?

The 1995 Constitution made a provision controlling or managing MPs from crossing the floor fwaa (at the mention of a few coins or a ministerial position). For fear of what happened in the 1960s, the Constitution provided that an MP elected on the ticket of a particular political party , would only cross to another political party at least (one year?) before the next election.

In essence, the MPs who crossed didn’t break any law. So, what is my problem? My interest in this matter is two-fold: Academic and moral.

In 1961, Kasese (Tooro South Constituency) elected Mr Ezron Bwambale (a little known DP candidate, who was toughing it out against UPC’s highflying Timothy Bazarrabusa and an Independent candidate Prince Hosea Nyabongo). On the promise of a Cabinet position, Mr Bwambale crossed the floor and was consequently appointed minister of State for Culture and Community Development.

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So, when Ms Winnie Kiiza (Woman MP, Kasese) without any formal preamble crossed from FDC to Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), she became the second serving MP from Kasese to cross from one party to another.

Mzee Ezron Bwambale may have been motivated by the ministerial offer from prime minister Obote. But our Winnie Kiiza is citing lack of values, democracy, transparency, etc in the FDC as one of the reasons she quit. But one may ask: What values (social, cultural, political or other) would one be espousing when one cannot even have the courtesy to tell his or her FDC colleagues that he or she has quit the party?

What kind of values is one espousing when he or she cannot even formally inform his or her electorate that he or she is quitting the platform on which he or she was elected?
Dear Crosser MPs, you may use the word ‘values’ and ‘morals’ as liberally as your fancy and ambition takes you, but the words ‘values and morals’ have a meaning:

Values and morals are the guiding principles of a judgment or policy position beyond the constriction of the legalese. Values and morals are universal in nature and held beyond the reach of the disabling human emotions of anger and happiness. Values are about doing the right thing (when the legal thing has been catered for by compulsion).

Now Ms Betty Nambooze, the DP (sorry, NUP) MP for Mukono Municipality, wants her contributions in Parliament to be recorded as those of a NUP MP. I hear the Speaker is reluctant to give Nambooze her wish, but my non-legal mind tells me that Nambooze’s argument is on firm ground.

If the Constitution allows the crossing of an MP, why should he or she still be associated with his or her old political party?
The next constitutional amendment should address this issue of MPs playing games on the electorate.

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost. abisiika@gmail.com

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