KAMPALA – A section of lawmakers has castigated the Electoral Commission(EC)for breeding a fertile ground for journalists to be assaulted during the election period after they mooted a proposal to ban cameras at polling stations.
Leading the accusations was Hon Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality) who stated that the Electoral Commission’s plan will set the stage for assault of media personnel by security forces during elections.
Hon Mpuuga made the remarks on Thursday, September 19, during a second meeting held between the Commission and Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to discuss the five bills tabled by the government on electoral reforms.
Hon Mpuuga slammed the reason for the secrecy of the ballot describing Byabakama’s argument as narrow and misleading to the public.
“Article 68(1) has nothing to do with barring transparency, a secret ballot doesn’t mean someone is voting under a camera. Can I understand how you interpreted this article? Was the interpretation that narrow? Help me understand what is inside a polling station, is inside the basin an interpretation of a polling station?”he quizzed.
Hon Mpuuga was backed by another opposition member, Asman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) who told off Byabakama that his reason for protecting the sanctity of the ballot does not hold water since it has never ever been listed as an election grievance in all the electoral petitions that have been handled by the courts.
With the debate on the subject raging on, Jacob Oboth Chairperson legal Committee was forced to suspend debate on the topic noting that the committee will pass a decision on the issue.
In a related development, Justice told Parliament that the Commission does not recognise the withdrawal of Judith Adyaka Nalibe as the FDC flag bearer for the upcoming Kaabong district woman MP by election.
The FDC candidate wrote to the EC declaring her withdrawal from the race leaving the NRM candidate unopposed citing failure to obtain support from her party, a move that left FDC officials seething with anger and the Party threatened to drag EC to court if it follows through with Adyaka’s withdrawal.
Asked about the matter, Byabakama told MPs that according to section 19 (2)a of the Parliamentary Elections Act, a candidate can only withdraw their candidature if their withdrawal letter is signed by the secretary-general of the sponsoring party.
He says the commission is now caught in a predicament where a candidate that has declared disinterest in the process is tied by the law to take part in it yet the Commission cannot declare the NRM candidate Christine Tubo Nakwang unopposed even though Adyaka is no longer campaigning.