DECEMBER 15, 2009: Election Season as Bills are Tabled

Election Season On As Bills Are Tabled
By Ismail Musa Ladu

The journey to the 2011 polls starts in earnest this afternoon when government presents a string of proposed amendments to electoral laws in Parliament. The minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs will table Bills for amendment of the Presidential Elections Act, the Parliamentary Elections, Electoral Commission Act and the Political Parties and Organisation's Act, Daily Monitor has learnt. However, the government will not propose any changes in the Constitution as had been earlier anticipated.

The Local Government's Elections Amendment Act and a new law on youth are to be presented later by their respective ministries.

At the same time, the shadow cabinet was also understood to have been lobbying space on the order paper to present its own set of electoral proposals in Parliament. As business heats up in the House, in Rubaga, a Kampala suburb, opposition party leaders are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding spelling out The Uganda We Want, after two days of meeting.

The five opposition parties in the Inter-Party Cooperation; Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda People's Congress, Justice Forum, Conservative Party and newly-signed up Social Democratic Party are expected to emphasise unity to challenge possible rigging and intimidation as cornerstones to their campaign to end President Museveni's 24-year grip on power.

50% Affair

By staying away from proposing changes in the Constitution, the government has agreed to keep a key provision requiring a candidate to poll 50 per cent plus one to be declared a winner, a provision that was expected to be shoved on the side in favour of a simple majority rule. Minister of State for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Freddie Ruhindi, confirmed that the new proposed laws are to be presented for first reading today.

Mr Ruhindi said he expected a fast passage of all the bills. "I will present them for a first reading tomorrow (today) and when we come back from recess pass it." Both the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill 2009 and Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill will contain a November 1st decision of the ruling NRM caucus to ban politicians from fundraising for public institutions during the campaign period. However, no sanction has been spelt out for violations.

Copies of the four proposed laws seen by Daily Monitor spell out, for first time, a clear plan to institute a National Consultative Forum, which will work to bring the different parties especially those in opposition on a roundtable with the party in power on key national issues.

Adjustments have been made in result declaration schedules for the Electoral Commission giving it more time to release final results for the winner of a Presidential election. The Bill says returning officers should within seven days be able to compile and submit a report on election results to the Electoral Commission but does not spell out how much actual latitude the commission has to declare a winner of an election. "We are going ahead to table our amendments but to us what matters is the constitutional reform and not what the government is going to present today," shadow Minister of Justice Erias Lukwago said yesterday.

Opposition Responds

Mr Lukwago said they want the restoration of term limits have the army out of Parliament and elections and a level field going into the polls. The opposition proposals also include the demand on a fair composition of the EC.

But in response, Mr Ruhindi said: "I do not see any need for constitutional reform and for those who are saying the EC is incompetent and should be disbanded; I challenge them to show me where they got that ruling from.