Soberly debate poll reform Bills

Wednesday January 22 2020

Parliament needs to move quickly to dispose of at least nine Bills lined up for discussion and resolutions. Among these are key proposed electoral reform laws.
These unfinished electoral reforms include the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Electoral Commission (Amendment Bill 2019, the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

These proposed laws are critical because they touch on the forthcoming electoral processes, ranging from grassroots, parliamentary to presidential polls. As some of these Bills come up for scrutiny this week, the MPs should find it unacceptable that as the country heads into 2021 elections, Opposition party activities are blocked or disrupted and their leaders are brutally assaulted, humiliated, arrested, and detained, while activities of the ruling party run uninterrupted.

This demands that the MPs cast off narrow party minds and forge cross-party approaches to these poll reforms with a long view to ushering a new, better democratic future, and political space for all Ugandans. There is, therefore, an urgent need for the MPs to process quickly these Bills as the first round of elections for Special Interest Groups are expected to kick off in April.

Moreover, the national political temperature is soon hitting fever pitch, especially as political parties head into primaries. Hence, what the MPs need is to rise above narrow party interests and constitute strict laws to outlaw violence, corruption and manipulation of voters and poll results.

Even more urgent for the MPs is the need to deal with the Budget Framework Paper for the Financial Year 2020/2021, which must be concluded by end of February.

But before the House sorts out the issue of the Budget Framework Paper, is the urgent need to demand the five-year National Development Plan III, which will in turn guide the Budgets. But with the absence of NDP III, the MPs will be groping in the dark as they scrutinize the Budget Framework Paper 2020/2021.

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Equally critical are other pending Bills, which include the Administration of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Administration of Judiciary Bill, 2018, Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities Bill, 2019, the Uganda Red Cross Society Bill, 2019, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and the National Local Content Bill, 2019.

All these schedules are within touching distance. Already, this week will be consumed by activities for the Parliament week, running from January 20-25. This will virtually put on hold all House businesses. Unless the MPs and ministers cast of their old laxity off absences, nothing much will change or be achieved. Let the MPs speedily debate, and conclude the proposed electoral reform Bills.

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