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Govt bars Independent Presidential candidates in new Bill

William Byaruhanga, the Attorney General before the House. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – The long wait for Government to table Electoral reforms came to an end on Thursday, July 25, when the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga finally tabled a total of five bills in response to the Supreme Court ruling for electoral reforms, with the proposals meant to rattle the opposition.

Hon Byarugaba took to the floor and tabled; The Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Political Parties and Organisation (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill and the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Parliament has been at logger heads with the Executive for failing to table the electoral prompting Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga to issue a two months ultimatum to the Executive to table electoral reforms if Parliament is to consider the reforms as recommended by the Supreme Court in the 2016 Presidential Electoral petition by former Premier, Amama Mbabazi.

During the State of Nation address in June, the Speaker said: “I urge the Leader of Government Business to expedite the process especially the electoral reforms to be considered and passed in good time, they may need to budget for additional resources, therefore, Parliament shouldn’t be made to firefight and be stampeded by late presentation of these by Government.”

It should be recalled that the Supreme Court in the Amama Mbabazi electoral petition in 2016 made several recommendations including; 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, enacting a law to bar the involvement of public servants from meddling in elections and punishment of media houses, which refuse to grant equal airtime to all presidential candidates among others.

The Supreme Court had given the Executive two years to table the Electoral Reforms; a directive the Executive overlooked prompting the Opposition through Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba to threaten to table the reforms if Government fails to honour the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Among the key highlights is the barring of cameras and phones from polling areas, while no Political parties shall not to have any links or alliance with any Pressure groups.

The other proposal is barring any candidate to run as independent of a party after participating in a party primary, while an ex-party member can run as independent at least one year after quitting their parties with written proof from the party.

The other proposal is to have declaration of results made in the presence of five people and upon election as independent, a member shall be free to enter into alliance with any party of his or her choice.

On the other hand, Government is seeking ban independent presidential candidates from entering alliance with any political party and directive to have all candidates within 14 days after nomination inform the electoral commission, the sources of their funding.

The other proposal is to give powers to the Electoral Commission to gazette an area a restricted area in the event of insecurity or disease outbreak, and also create leeway for Security personnel (police and military) to vote at least five days to the general polling date.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga referred the Bills to the committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and as thus report back to Parliament within 45days and also approved Niwagaba’s request to table a motion for the opposition to table their own amendments.

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