What amounts to consultations?

Saturday January 18 2020

 

By Michael Aboneka

There has been a lot of debate and discussions on the foiled consultations by the presidential hopeful, Robert Kyagulanyi whose consultations did not see the light of day as he had earlier planned.
The police gave all sorts of excuses until there was a meeting called by the Electoral Commission (EC) on the same. We are still waiting to see what exactly came out of the meeting perhaps in a way of a statement by the EC.
I have heard various parties trying and struggling to define what consultations are and of course each one has defined them to suit their narrative.
The law that establishes the consultations; Presidential Elections Act section 3 gives a broader sense of what the consultation can entail and not merely what it is.
Is it therefore wrong for a party to consult by a rally or through a radio programme? Does the EC or police have the mandate to define what form a consultation should be? Will they be breaching the law by enacting their own to suit their orders?
The law is clear on requirements that one who hopes to consult must fulfil which is a notice to the EC and the police and local council of the area where the consultation will take place-and not police headquarters.
Does a meeting of a political organisation fall under the Public Order and Management Act? I have also heard discussions on how does one draw the line between consultations and campaigns. There are no clear set out objectives and outcomes of the consultations.
What would an outcome of consultation look like? Will there be some sort of endorsement by the voters? How do we determine that a meeting held was a consultation? Much as the law may be clear on the processes of consulting, it leaves the how to the presidential hopeful but in real sense, what do consultations mean? One would expect to see some kind of guidelines just as campaigns do to sort this puzzle but until then, I foresee continuous and selective running battles between police with their POMA on one side and the presidential hopefuls on the other. Another presidential hopeful Moses Byamugisha will soon start his consultations and I am waiting eagerly to see how his consultations will be treated.
The EC being the in-charge of elections should rein in over and ensure that there is an equal levelled field for all political actors in the forthcoming polls if we are to achieve meaningful free and fair elections.
Michael Aboneka,
abonekajunior@gmail.com

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