Sur­prises in The New Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions Amend­ment Bill

The Par­lia­ment of Uganda once again was called back from re­cess to dis­cuss 3 bills  on 22nd Sep­tem­ber 2015. I have al­most lost count of how many times the House has been called back in the last cou­ple of months.

The house that was sup­posed to start at 10:00 am, started at 11:43 am is, as the leader of Gov­ern­ment busi­ness and Gov­ern­ment chief whip were not pre­sent. The NRM cau­cus was also meet­ing at the same time, so you can imag­ine what the at­ten­dance in the House was like.  Some Op­po­si­tion Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment were not amused.

The Gov­ern­ment that called for this spe­cial sit­ting, does­n’t seem to be in­ter­ested, the leader of Gov­ern­ment busi­ness is not even in Par­lia­ment, this is dis­re­spect­ful to Par­lia­ment and Of­fice of the speaker” said MP Katuntu

At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Hon Fred Ruhindi then pre­sented the Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions Amend­ment Bill for its first read­ing, Speaker Re­becca Kadaga du­ti­fully for­warded the bill to the com­mit­tee on le­gal and Par­lia­men­tary Af­fairs, to de­bate and re­port back.

These are some of the amend­ments pro­posed by Gov­ern­ment that had my jaw drop­ping:

  • Clause 1 of the Bill seeks to re­vise the nom­i­na­tion fees payable un­der that sec­tion from Ugx  8,000,000/= ​to Ugx 20,000,000/= ​to re­flect the changes in the econ­omy.
  • Clause 2 seeks to amend sec­tion 21(1) to re­move the re­quire­ment for a can­di­date to cam­paign in every dis­trict of Uganda. Cur­rently, sec­tion 21(1) re­quires the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion to de­ter­mine the man­ner and pe­riod of cam­paign.

The movers of the mo­tion jus­ti­fied this change due to the in­crease in the num­ber of dis­tricts in Uganda.

  • Clause 3 seeks to re­vise the fa­cil­i­ta­tion pro­vided by the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion to a can­di­date as a con­tri­bu­tion by the State to­wards the elec­tion ac­tiv­i­ties of that can­di­date. Cur­rently, the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion pro­vides Ugx. 20, 000,0001= and a ve­hi­cle to every can­di­date. The Bill pro­poses to in­crease this amount to Ugx. 50,000,000/= ​and to con­sol­i­date the con­tri­bu­tion of the State in that amount.
  • Clause 4 seeks to amend sec­tion 30(2) to change the time for close of polling from five o’­clock to four o’­clock in the af­ter­noon.

The movers of the bill jus­ti­fied this pro­posal as it is nec­es­sary to give the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion ad­di­tional time to count, tally, fill the re­quired forms and trans­mit the re­sults be­fore it gets dark.

  • Clause 5 to re­move the re­quire­ment for the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion to dip the thumb of a per­son who has cast a bal­lot into in­deli­ble ink to in­di­cate that the per­son has voted.

The Bill pro­poses that due to ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, ink should be ap­plied to the thumb with­out nec­es­sar­ily dip­ping the thumb into the ink as one of the ways of in­di­cat­ing that a per­son has voted.

The speaker gave the com­mit­tee on Le­gal up to Fri­day the 25th Sep­tem­ber to re­port back to the house on the bills. So tech­ni­cally, the com­mit­tee has one day to re­port and dis­cuss 3 bills con­sid­er­ing Thurs­day is a pub­lic hol­i­day.

Will the com­mit­tee re­port be ready by Fri­day? I guess we shall have to wait and see…