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MPs put justice minister on the spot over new election roadmap

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Kamuntu.

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Parliament has poked holes in the revised election roadmap for the 2021 polls which was recently unveiled by the Electoral Commission Chairman Justice Simon Byabakama. 

The disapproval came after a statement presented to Parliament by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Ephraim Kamuntu on Tuesday. In the statement, Kamuntu reiterated the position by the commission to run a ‘scientific’ election, with no mass campaigns or person-to-person interactions by those running for political offices.

Instead, the commission advised aspirants and candidates to utilize digital platforms to be able to reach their audiences. This, Kamuntu emphasized will help the country to keep COVID-19 at bay while respecting constitutional requirements on the electoral processes.  

He said that the Electoral body carried out a risk analysis of the COVID-19 impact and instituted mitigation measures in line with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health. Kamuntu added that the Commission also considered the need to preserve the health of the Citizens vis-a-vis their constitutional and democratic right to elect leaders of their choice as guaranteed by the Constitution.  

Kamuntu appealed to political parties and organisations and individuals aspiring to contest as independent candidates, to utilise the time provided in the revised Roadmap, and prepare to participate in the respective activities. Kamuntu equally appealed to media owners to avail equal opportunity to all the candidates for fair press coverage.  

But Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Ssegona said that it was unfair to conduct an election where candidates can’t face voters and where voters can’t see candidates. Kampala Central MP Muhammed Nsereko also noted that the revised road map was unfair to both contenders and the electorate, especially the elderly, and those with various impairments.

The issue of special interest groups was also amplified by Helen Asamo, a representative of Persons with disabilities who said that the televised campaigns are against the principle of ‘leaving no one behind.’

Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa asked the government to review the legal framework regarding the next elections. He has, for instance, asked the EC to explain how it intends to cater for polling agents at a polling station with 20 candidates, amidst the COVID-19 safety measures.  

He called upon President Yoweri Museveni to instead declare a State of Emergency to allow for the extension of 2021 elections saying that the Electoral Commission and most Uganda are not ready to hold elections since the current situation does not allow for free and fair polls.  

However, Bunyole West MP James Waluswaka encouraged MPs and other intending candidates to start preparing for the 2021 election and cautions that extending the election offends the law.  

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga said that the revised roadmap for the 2021 elections is still unclear and directed Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to study the guidelines and provide feedback to the government.  

According to the revised roadmap, political parties are supposed to holding primaries between June 22 and July 21 ahead of nominations in September and October. Polls are expected to take place between January 10 and February 8, 2021.

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