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Attorney general to table new political parties regulations

Attorney General William Byaruhanga appearing before a Select Committee of Parliament.

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  The Attorney General William Byaruhanga says that he will table new regulations relating to operations of political parties.

Without divulging details of the regulations, Byaruhanga said that he will present the regulations on Thursday for debate and possible approval. 

But Uganda Radio Network-URN learnt that the guidelines seek to take over political party Constitutions and provide guidance on the identification of candidates. The new guidelines will also provide for virtual meetings in political parties during the political process, use of media to highlight resolutions among others.

Byaruhanga together with the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ephraim Kamuntu and Electoral Commission officials were on Wednesday appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. 

The meeting follows the recently released revised election road map for the 2021 polls informed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has attracted public criticism. The revised road map mainly banned open-air campaigns and instead, advised all political contenders to utilize digital platforms to reach their electorate.

During the meeting, Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa raised several legal matters regarding the new road map tasking the officials to explain how Article 71 of the Constitution will be complied with in the revised road map.

“Article 71 requires that political parties must have regular elections and the internal organization of political parties must be undertaken per democratic principles. Now, fulfilling that obligation requires elections, meetings, delegates conferences, electoral colleges and campaigns. This has been banned by the road map, how are we going to fulfil that Constitutional requirement?” he asked.

Basalirwa who is currently the Chairman of the Interparty Organization for Dialogue (IPOD), a platform bringing together political parties with representation in Parliament said that Article 71 of the Constitution relates to Section 10 of the Political Parties and Organizations Act which provides for political events and rallies during elections.

He also questioned how Article 102 (2) (d) of the Constitution which requires a presidential aspirant to have 100 voters to support a nomination from at least two-thirds of all districts will be fulfilled in the absence of having meetings.

Basalirwa also questioned how candidates are going to verify academic documents since institutions mandated to verify academic papers are currently closed due to Covid-19 pandemic. 

He also questioned how the government is going to replace the statutory requirement with regulations issued by the Electoral Commission. Basalirwa also wondered how regulations issued by the EC will work in the absence of a Statutory Instrument issued by the Ministry of Health.

Byaruhanga said that the Ministry of Health is constantly making instruments to address specific issues during the Covid-19 pandemic and that there are regulations that his office is scheduled to present before Parliament on Thursday regarding the Political Parties and Organizations Act.

However, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairperson Jacob Oboth questioned why the government did not come out clear on the regulations earlier. 

But Byaruhanga said that his office thought to first discuss with the Committee on the electoral process before presenting the regulations. He said that the regulations seek to align activities of political parties with the Public Health Act.

Aston Kajara, the Mwenge South MP argued that the regulations by the government cannot override provisions in the Constitution and other Laws. Basalirwa said that Section 27 of the Political Parties and Organizations Act allows for the presentation of regulation by the Minister and the approval by parliament. 

Besides the legal issues raised by Basalirwa, a section of other MPs raised queries about the electoral process and the Committee Chairperson Jacob Oboth Oboth directed the Attorney General and other officials to appear again on Tuesday next week with responses.

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URN

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