Parliament approves Political Party and Organisations Regulations, 2020
Parliament on 9th July 2020 passed a report of the Committee on Legal/Parliamentary Affairs on the Political Parties and Organisations (Conduct of Meetings and Elections) Regulations, 2020. The report on the regulations proposed by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs was presented before the August House by Hon. Oboth Jacob the Committee Chairperson.
The Committee report presented the regulations which will facilitate political parties and organisations in conducting their internal elections for purposes of identifying political party flag bearers to contest in the next general elections due in February 2021. The regulations will enable the parties and organisations to conduct their activities without compromising the safety guidelines under the Public Health (Control of COVID-19) Rules, 2020. A majority approved this report of the members (20 out of the 29 Committee Membership).
Besides, Hon. Lubega Medard Ssegona presented a Minority Report of the Committee which was approved by four members. The report revealed that the views expressed by the stakeholders in the main report were too limited in scope to represent a sample of the entire country some of whose views were excluded due to the limited time. The minority recommend that the regulations proposed by the Hon. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs be rejected in their entirety.
There was hot debate among the Members regarding the approval of the regulations. Hon. Mwijukye Francis disagreed with proposed regulations noting that they would not promote free and fair elections. “We are not saying that we don’t want elections but which kind of elections. The truth is that the majority are not supporting these regulations.” He said.
The leader of People Power Movement, MP Kyagulanyi Robert, who is an aspiring Presidential Candidate for 2021 elections said that the main report did not present the reality. He asserted that the country was facing an emergency due to COVID-19. Kyagulanyi proposed that the President should declare a state of emergency. “The Constitution guides that in a situation of a state of emergency, the elections should be extended.” He said, adding that a bad election can cost many lives of people.
However, the majority members in the ruling party- NRM supported the recommendations of the committee to have the regulations to guide the elections and political meetings. Hon. Ababiku Jessica said that the regulations will ensure that elections are carried out safely in the presence of COVID-19 pandemic. She urged all political parties and organisations to follow the regulations in the preparations for 2021 elections.
The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, also urged Parliament to approve the regulations remarking that the Constitution provides for periodic elections.
Parliament approved and adopted the Majority Report presented by Hon. Oboth Jacob, the Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.
According to the passed regulations, any political party or organisation is to:
a) Conduct its internal affairs, in addition to complying with articles 71 and 72 of the Constitution, adhering to the Public Health Act and the Rules made thereunder for the control of infectious diseases;
b) Hold meetings or elections for members of its executive committee, members of its organs or sponsored candidates by use of virtual meetings; resolutions by circulation; phased elections; secret ballot; open ballot or lining up behind the candidate of choice.
c) Employ the method of election or meeting that allows the holding of the election or meeting without contravening the provisions of the Public Health Act and the Rules made thereunder for the control of infectious diseases;
d) Extend the term of office of elected members of organs of the political party or organisation, other than the term of the executive committee, where it is not practical to hold elections for the membership of such organs as a result of the restrictions or other measures imposed by the Public Health Act or rules made thereunder for the control of infectious diseases;
e) Extension of the term of office of elected members of organs of the political party or organisation for a period not exceeding six months from the date of lifting the restrictions or other measures imposed by the Public Health Act.