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Electoral Reform Bills debate: MPs oppose restrictions on independents

FILE PHOTO: Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Several legislators have rejected proposals in the Electoral Reform bills, which seek to regulate the participation of independent candidates in presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.

In July last year, government tabled proposed reforms to several laws including the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill No.17, 2019, Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill No.18, 2019, Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill No. 19, 2019, the Political Parties and Organization (Amendment) Bill No. 20, 2019 and Local Governments (Amendment) Bill No.21, 2019.

Both the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections amendment Bills propose that aspirants can be nominated as independents if they left a political party or organization 12 months to the nomination day. However, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which scrutnised the bills, rejected the proposal, saying it is unconstitutional as it “breaches constitutional provisions including an individual’s freedom of association.”

On Wednesday several legislators concurred with the Committee saying all provisions which seek to restrict independents should be deleted. Legislators led by Igara East MP, Michael Mawanda and Soroti Woman MP; Angeline Osegge lauded the committee for rejecting the proposal. Mawanda reiterated that the proposal contravenes a number of provisions in the 1995 Uganda Constitution

Osegge said the proposal should be rejected in the spirit of promoting democratic practices in Uganda’s elections. She said people should be allowed to contest on a party ticket or as independents.

The Soroti Municipality MP, Herbert Ariko described the committee’s decision to reject the proposal as the “wisest” on the Bills. He said the proposal would imply that political parties have enormous powers to bar or allow members to stand for elections.

Manjiya County MP, John Baptist Nambeshe and Kumi Woman MP, Monicah Amoding supported the committee recommendation saying the proposal doesn’t only breach constitutional provisions but other provisions in charters such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

However, the Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi who is also the General Secretary of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change-FDC party said independents have a constitutional right to contest for elections. He said it was wrong for Amoding to assume that all political parties support the proposed amendment.

Justice Forum President and Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa agreed with Nandala saying that his party also opposed to the provisions.

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