Re­duc­tion in Op­po­si­tion- what that means for the 10th Par­lia­ment

By: Winnie Watera

The op­po­si­tion is formed by the largest party or coali­tion of par­ties that does not have the sup­port of the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers in Par­lia­ment and it plays a very cru­cial role in any Leg­is­la­ture. In Uganda, the op­po­si­tion is pro­vided for the by Ar­ti­cle 82 A[1] of the 1995 Con­sti­tu­tion and the abridged con­sti­tu­tion of 1996 of the Re­pub­lic of Uganda.

The main role of the op­po­si­tion is to ques­tion the ex­ec­u­tive and hold them ac­count­able to the pub­lic, how­ever, other roles in­clude but are not lim­ited to; scru­ti­niz­ing or closely ex­am­in­ing the work of the gov­ern­ment; de­bat­ing bills in the Par­lia­ment, work­ing on com­mit­tees that ex­am­ine bills and im­por­tant na­tional is­sues; and pro­vid­ing al­ter­na­tives to gov­ern­ment poli­cies.

Judg­ing from the re­cently con­cluded gen­eral elec­tions, the op­po­si­tion has sig­nif­i­cantly been re­duced in Par­lia­ment. The re­duc­tion does not nec­es­sar­ily mean in nom­i­nal value, how­ever, in the con­text of con­tri­bu­tion to­wards qual­ity de­bate in the house. A few great ex­am­ples are; the leader of Op­po­si­tion, Wa­fula Oguttu, Leader of In­de­pen­dents, Sam Otada, Shadow Min­is­ter for Fi­nance, Ekanya Ge­of­frey, PAC chair­per­son, Alaso Al­ice. This notwith­stand­ing, op­po­si­tion par­ties like Jus­tice Fo­rum (JEEMA) and the Con­ser­v­a­tive Party which lost their mem­bers, Ken Lukya­muzi and Hus­sein Kyanjo[2]

The rul­ing party[3], al­though, lost some of its promi­nent mem­bers, Min­is­ters in­clu­sive[4], con­tin­ues to hold a ma­jor­ity in the next Par­lia­ment. It is im­por­tant to note that also a ma­jor­ity of Par­lia­men­t’s women rep­re­sen­ta­tives hail from the rul­ing party. Hav­ing a ma­jor­ity as is with the rul­ing party, could mean a cou­ple of things for Ugan­da’s leg­is­la­ture and for the elec­torate.

Firstly, it means that gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to drive the leg­is­la­tion in Par­lia­ment. Be­fore any bill is passed, at least, one-third of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment must vote in fa­vor of the leg­is­la­tion. Con­se­quently, hav­ing a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment im­plies hav­ing smooth sail­ing for the gov­ern­ment. The fact that the op­po­si­tion has to work twice as hard as the rul­ing party to have the same re­sult makes is largely ex­ac­er­bated by the fact that their num­bers have dwin­dled over time. The 10th Par­lia­ment will, there­fore, see a lot of de­ci­sions taken in fa­vor of the gov­ern­ment.

Sec­ondly, the ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion will con­tinue to go unchecked even in the com­ing Par­lia­ment. On a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, Par­lia­ment has been ac­cused of be­ing gov­ern­men­t’s rub­ber stamp and not tak­ing de­ci­sions ob­jec­tively and many have pre­dicted that the sta­tus quo will re­main as long as the rul­ing party con­tin­ues to hold the ma­jor­ity of the seats in Par­lia­ment as is the case in the 10th. Sep­a­ra­tion of the roles of the dif­fer­ent arms of gov­ern­ment is some­thing Uganda is yet to mas­ter and un­til then, it’s very likely that many de­ci­sions will be in­flu­enced by the ex­ec­u­tive

Last but not least, the re­cently con­cluded elec­tion mapped out ar­eas in Uganda that are loyal to the op­po­si­tion and those loyal to the rul­ing party. The re­sults ev­i­denced that ur­ban ar­eas are loyal to the op­po­si­tion whilst the rural ar­eas are loyal to the rul­ing party which begs the ques­tion, what does it mean for ar­eas that are op­po­si­tion strong­holds in terms of ser­vice de­liv­ery? It has been proven in young democ­ra­cies like ours, the op­po­si­tion finds it hard to ac­cess funds while mem­bers of the rul­ing party have a fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage as well as ac­cess to state re­sources. The chair­per­son of the rul­ing and Pres­i­dent of Uganda for three decades and count­ing, H.E Kaguta Mu­sev­eni has been quoted say­ing peo­ple in cer­tain ar­eas are re­spon­si­ble for their poverty be­cause of their choice of lead­ers who mainly sub­scribe to the op­po­si­tion.

That said, hav­ing a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment is not a bad thing es­pe­cially if all tenets of democ­racy are ex­er­cised. How­ever, our Par­lia­ment has left a lot to be de­sired. We should not be quick to dis­re­gard the power of the op­po­si­tion and the role they play in any democ­racy like ours. They are an im­por­tant part of the sys­tem.

[1] Of­fice of the leader of Op­po­si­tion

[2] Hus­sein Kyanjo did not seek re-elec­tion, he, how­ever, fronted his son, Farouk Kyanjo who lost the Makindye West seat.

[3] The Na­tional Re­sis­tance Move­ment