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Masaka voters reject proposed restrictions on independents

Busiro East MP Medard Ssegona presenting at the Masaka regional consultaion by Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Friday

Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  The proposal that seeks to regulate independent candidates in political contestation has meet stiff resistance during the Masaka regional consultations on the Electoral Reforms bill.

On Friday, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee held a public meeting at Masaka District council hall to solicit public views on the proposed electoral reforms by government that are before parliament for consideration.

The government proposal seeks to among others things set restrictions on the participation and conduct of independent candidates in an election.  The bill for instance requires any person who intends to contest as an independent candidate to have ceased membership of any political party for a period not less than one year before nomination.

The candidate is also expected to secure a discharge letter from their former political party before nomination. However, a group of voters in Masaka asked members of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee led by the Bufumbira County MP, Sam Bitangaro to drop the proposal describing it as undemocratic.

Agnes Namusiitwa, the Kakuuto Sub County Female Councilor to Kyotera district local government, says the proposal curtails principals of democracy, especially in scenarios where political parties fail to organize free primaries.

Namusitwa, who is also Secretary of the Greater Masaka Civil Society advocacy group, is afraid that the bill will fuel dictatorial tendencies in political parties. She says the proposed amendment will deny voters a chance of getting potential leaders because their options will be limited to political party candidates.     

Francis Ssebbula, the Kabonera Sub County Chairperson in Masaka district, proposes that parliament should instead concentrate on creating more time between the party primaries and general elections to allow aggrieved parties enough time to appeal and seek possible remedies.

Besides, the other controversial issue in the proposal, according to the electorate is the establishment of an Electoral Reform Committee that is chaired by the Secretary.

The Electoral Commission (amendment) bill, 2019 proposes a special committee that will carry out reviews of the election processes as well synthesizing reforms proposed by political parties, election observers and monitors, civil society and other stakeholders or arising from court decisions.

But Joseph Kasirye, a resident in Masaka municipality, says it is self-defeating to allow the Electoral Commission carry out an evaluation on its process and weaknesses.

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