MEMBERS of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), yesterday, elected Margaret Zziwa Nantongo as the next Speaker of the regional assembly in a tight contest in Arusha.
Zziwa who becomes the first woman to head the regional assembly beat her compatriot and sole rival, Dora Byamukama, who had earlier been seen as the favourite for the job.
Richard Owora Othieno the head of corporate communication at the EAC Secretariat told The New Times from Arusha, that the race went into second round re-run after the winner failed to get the requisite percentage of two-thirds of the votes.
In the first round Zziwa got 27 votes while her challenger polled 18, throwing the election into a runoff, in which Zziwa won with 33 to 12 votes of her challenger.
A team of parliamentarians from Uganda had reportedly travelled to Arusha and tried to convince Zziwa to step down but she prevailed.
Initially, the race was between three candidates but Burundian Hasfa Mosi pulled out at the last minute, after the Ugandan government engaged Burundi.
Edward Sekalo, a communication officer with the EAC, noted that the contenders conducted clandestine campaigns within hotels, reaching to all EALA members from the partner states.
Both candidates were from Uganda's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
The new assembly will immediately begin work.
Margaret Zziwa succeeds Kenyan Abdulahin H. Abdi who had headed the Assembly for the last five years, succeeding Abdulrahman Kinana from Tanzania.
According to the treaty, the EALA Speaker holds the position for a single five year term.
EALA membership comprises a total of 52 members, of whom 45 are elected (9 from each Partner State) and seven ex-officio members (the Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs from the Partner States, the Secretary General of the Community and the Counsel to the Community).
Currently Rwanda's representatives to the Assembly are Christophe Bazivamo, Patricia Hajabakiga, Abdulkarim Harelimana, Jacqueline Muhongayire, Dr. James Ndahiro, Straton Ndikuryayo, Valerie Nyirahabineza, Dr Odette Nyiramilimo and Pierre Celesitin Rwigema.