KAMPALA – The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee is set to scrutinise the electoral reforms tabled by Attorney General William Byaruhanga; a move that is set to draw a sharp divide between the ruling political party and the opposition.
The Attorney-General tabled a number of proposed amendments including; 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.
Government team will take centre stage at the meeting with the Ministry of Justice set to introduce the bill to defend its contents before the team proceeds with meeting other witnesses to provide their opinions on the proposals made by Government.
Government is seeking to prohibit the use of cameras or recording devices at polling stations with the bill highlighting, In the process of voting, a person shall not use a camera of any kind or any recording device inside a polling station.
A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding forty-eight currency points equivalent to Shs960,000 or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
The Executive is seeking to curtail influence of independent politicians with the bill stipulating that a person is eligible to stand for election as an independent if that person is not a member of a registered political party or organisation or having ceased to be a member of a political party or organisation twelve months before nomination days or also having never been registered as a member of a political party or organisation.
On dealing with campaign financing, the bill seeks to bar a candidate or candidate’s agent from obtaining, solicit or receive any financial or other assistance from any foreign Government institution, body or person which or who has demonstrated an intention to overthrow the lawfully established Government of Uganda or to endanger the security of Uganda
Aspirants are also barred from obtaining, soliciting or receiving any financial or other assistance from an organisation which has been declared a terrorist organisation under the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002.
A presidential candidate caught with illicit money or other assistance obtained by a candidate contrary to the provision shall be forfeited to the State by order of the court convicting a person while parliamentary candidates or their agents face jail of five years or pay fine not exceeding one hundred and twenty currency points equal to UGX 2.4M.
In fulfilment of Supreme Court recommendation to ensure state media accords equal airtime and space to all political candidates with UBC criticized for sidelined the opposition in the 2016 elections, Government has moved to rectify the chaos.
In the new provisions, a state-owned media house that contravenes commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred currency points equal to UGX 10M while an officer responsible for a state-owned media house who contravenes subsection commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points about UGX480,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.
However, the recommendation by the supreme court barring public servants from joining campaign trails was rejected by Government arguing that the suggestion requires detailed study given that the constitution guarantees a right to vote and participation in electoral processes and therein needs to draw a line between participation in partisan politics as civil right and duty on one hand, and conversing for support for a candidate on the other hand.
Government has also agreed to repeal words of or donations given by the President in the ordinary course of his or her duties appearing afterword elections, outlawing presidential donations during campaigns by incumbents.