Uganda: FDC Offers Alternative Electoral Reforms, Ridicules Govt Proposals

Opposition political, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has offered a number of alternative electoral forms as opposed to what government through the attorney general William Byaruhanga tabled in parliament last week.

Byaruhanga tabled the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Political Parties and Organization (Amendment), 2019 and the Local Governments (Amendment) Bill No.21, 2019.

Under these bills, government's proposed reforms include barring of cameras and phones at polling areas, barring of candidates from running as independents after participating in a party primary, barring of independent presidential candidates from forming an alliance with any political party, security personnel to vote five days ahead of the official polling date.

Also, political parties are barred from having links with pressure groups and results shall be declared to only five people left at the tally centre as opposed to previously when the results were declared before interested parties. Candidates must also disclose the source of their funding 14 days upon nomination.

Now, FDC says the reforms were tabled in bad faith, targeting particular individuals most especially Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine. FDC says government's proposals are bastardized, unconstitutional and not reflective of a civilized society because reforms should be for the benefit of the country and not for particular individuals.

FDC's proposed reforms include the restoration of presidential term limits two five year terms, open recruitment of Electoral Commission officials and delineation of the military from the electoral process. FDC deputy spokesperson, John Kikonyogo presented the party's proposals during the weekly FDC media briefing at Najjanankumbi.

"As FDC, we said we need a new Electoral Commission which must be independent, impartial and whose commissioners and staff must follow open processes of application, public hearing and scrutiny and conducted by the Judicial Service Commission." said Kikonyogo.

Currently, Electoral Commission staff are recruited under the Public Service Commission while the chairperson is appointed by the president. FDC also wants the military eliminated from the electoral process and be left to conduct its constitutional duty of protecting Uganda's borders.

As for police, FDC says they should provide security during the electoral process under the supervision of the Electoral Commission as opposed to the inspector general of police (IGP) as proposed by government. FDC also wants presiding officers to be recruited in a transparent manner based on merit.

FDC also proposes that the procurement of electoral materials including printing and distribution at all levels and stages should involve security and all key stakeholders particularly political parties, civil society, electoral observers and the media. Asked whether the involvement of political parties wouldn't compromise the independence of the process, Kikonyogo said there is need for political parties to be involved in the process.

"That independent candidates should not form any alliances with a party. As you are aware, the chapter on human rights, this is also a unconstitutional. For a country like Uganda to bastardize the reforms and reduce them to independent candidates, associating with pressure groups, I think it sulks, it demeans us to a level we behave as if we're not civilized." added Kikonyogo.

Other reforms include devising a mechanism to monitor and prevent raids of funds from the central bank, ministries and international assistance accounts in the period and during campaigns in order to protect the integrity of the campaign process.

FDC also wants the Public Order Management Act (POMA) repealed so as to ensure that the freedoms to organize and assemblies are respected and that an independent and credible judiciary be promoted to adjudicate electoral disputes.

Electoral Reform Committee

An Electoral Reforms Committee may soon be established once parliament adopts new amendments to the Electoral Commission Act. The establishment of the committee is among the reforms in the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019 tabled before parliament by Byaruhanga.

The proposed Electoral Reforms Committee will work in liaison with Uganda Law Reform Commission in studying electoral laws, consult relevant stakeholders on proposed electoral reforms and others. The committee according to the Bill will also be responsible with recommending to the Justice minister concrete proposals for electoral reforms and synthesize various reforms proposed by political parties, election observers, monitors, civil society and others arising from court decisions.

Election monitors, politicians and civil society organisations (CSOs) have in the past complained about failure by government to implement reforms resulting from election petitions and court decisions.

Richard Ssewakiryanga, the executive director of the National Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Forum tasked government on the 2016 electoral reforms as recommended by the Supreme court judges led by chief justice Bart Katureebe while delivering their judgment in the Amama Mbabazi Vs Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and others presidential election petition.

These include extending the filing and determination period of presidential election petitions to 60 days to enable the concerned parties and court to adequately prepare and present their case, regulation of public officials in elections and punishment of media houses, which refuse to grant equal airtime to all presidential candidates and prohibition of donations during elections among others.

Ssewakiryanga also asked government to also include the electoral reforms proposed by other players like CSOs through the Citizens Compact that were generated following countrywide consultations ahead of the 2016 general elections.

Government in the Bill proposes that the Electoral Commission chairperson shall constitute the Electoral Reforms Committee within 6 months after the date of the last general elections and the committee make recommendations to the minister in 18 months after being constituted.

"The minister shall present the proposed electoral reforms to parliament, if any, at least two years before the next general elections. The minister may, in consultation with the commission, by statutory instrument, make regulations prescribing the terms and conditions of service of the Electoral Reform Committee," reads part of the Bill.

It is proposed that the committee shall comprise of 4 persons representing the Electoral Commission, one of whom, the secretary to the commission shall be the chairperson of the committee.

The proposed committee will also have 3 persons representing the attorney general, a secretary of the Uganda Law Reform Commission, a person representing political parties nominated by the National Consultative Forum, a person representing civil society appointed by the chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Local Government ministry permanent secretary and the permanent secretary of the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

Shadow attorney general Wilfred Niwagaba said that the proposal is not in good faith since it suggests a study and compilation of reforms after the general elections.

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