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 Oulanyah defers debate on opposition electoral reforms bill

FILE PHOTO: Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah has deferred debate by the opposition seeking to introduce electoral amendments.

Oulanyah’s ruling followed a motion by Shadow Attorney-General Wilfred Niwagaba, seeking leave of Parliament to introduce a Private Members Bill entitled ‘The Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2019’.

The motion was seconded by Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ochan, Butambala County MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi and others.

In his motion, Niwagaba who represents Ndorwa East recounted that the Supreme Court recommended the overhaul of the electoral law to align it with the dictates of free and fair elections noting that the need for free and fair elections remains an outcry of many Ugandans and that many Articles of the Constitution.

He also noted that the Supreme Court has in the previous years directed government to have several electoral reforms before two years to the general elections and that the Government has failed to introduce the necessary laws to effect the electoral reforms envisaged in time.

Niwagaba told parliament that the Bill intended to be presented mainly focuses on the character and nature of the Electoral Commission.

He also noted that the proposed reforms focus on the character of the Institution of Parliament and the working of the Executive.

Some of the key reforms proposed by the Opposition includes reinstating presidential term limits, removal of the representation of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) representatives from parliament, and restrict the number of Cabinet Ministers and other Ministers to 21 respectively, increasing the number of members of the Electoral Commission (EC) from 7 to 9 and others.

Ochan justified Niwagaba’s motion saying that there is a need to start thinking about the transitional period in case power shifts from the current government.

Butambala County MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi also cited a need to legitimize Uganda’s democracy and that this was the time to present amendments that will usher in free and fair elections.

Before Parliament could debate the motion and eventually grant or deny Niwagaba opportunity to present the Bill, Mwesigwa Rukutana the Deputy Attorney General raised a procedural issue.

He said that the motion according to Article 93 of the Constitution needed a certificate of financial implication attached to it since the contents in the Bill have financial effects.

He added that Parliament in the past adopted a recommendation to have proposed constitution amendments reviewed by the Constitutional Review Commission. Rukutana said that government was in the final stages of setting up the Commission.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal argued that Article 93 was not relevant at the stage of motion. She demanded that the process of the Bill continues.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Shadow Minister Medard Lubega Sseggona said that he feels offended whenever members get so apprehensive and debating in anticipation about the targets of the proposed legislation.

He suggested that the debate should not be blocked and that only its quality should guide the final decision. Sseggona demanded that anything that seeks to improve the quality of the country’s election should be given a chance and listened to.

Oulanyah noted that he needed time to study the legal issues raised by Deputy Attorney General Rukutana and make his ruling before parliament for guidance.

Some of the other reforms by the opposition include providing for the involvement of the Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of members of the EC, provide for the qualifications of a Chairperson of the EC and the grounds for the disqualifications of members of the EC.

The opposition also wants the EC to determine election complaints that arise before polling within 10 days and for the Commission to be required whenever practicable to hold presidential, general parliamentary and local government council elections on the same day and among others.

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