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…