KAMPALA — A proposal by the Electoral Commission to be given the mandate to ban candidates who fail to comply with campaign timelines and regulations has been rejected by both Jemma and FDC saying the ruling party is likely to use the ploy to frustrate the opposition candidates.
Last week, Justice Simon Byabakama, Chairperson Electoral Commission while appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to submit the Commission’s views on electoral reforms told the Committee that although the Electoral Commission was in support of the proposals tabled by the Attorney General, there is need to make further punitive proposals to restore sanity in Uganda’s electoral process.
“Since this is an electoral period, the Commission as the main managers of elections should have the first opportunity to call in order a particular candidate who is contravening the timelines for the campaign period. Because the process is cumbersome, there should be Police investigation, recording of statements, formal charge preferred, taken to court and by the time these processes are concluded, probably the elections have been concluded,”said Byabakama.
Byabakama added that although government set sanction in the proposals they feel the sanction on violation campaign timelines should be instant and they would like to be given the mandate to impose a ban on any candidate’s campaign schedule.
He said, “For us we feel, if the purpose is to address the acts of breaching campaign timelines, the sanctions should be immediate and one of those is for EC to exercise its powers and call this candidate to order by imposing a ban on some of his electoral program as agreed upon on campaign schedule.”
Government in its proposal is seeking to amend section 21 of Presidential Elections Act and stipulate time frame within which candidates can hold campaigns noting, “Notwithstanding subsection (1), a candidate shall hold campaigns between seven o’clock in the forenoon and six o’clock in the afternoon.
Government further proposed to have the person who contravenes the provision to be fined not exceeding forty-eight currency points or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
Mayanja Kibirige, Chairperson JEEMA party argued that apart from this being a minor issue to constitute an offence, it is not enforceable as an incumbent cannot be subjected to prosecution and arrest.
He said, “Campaigning outside the specified time is a minor offence, it should not constitute an offence for which candidates are going to be punished with imprisonment for up to two years. Besides, it should never lead to the arrest of a candidate. The incumbent candidate may use it to imprison a rival to defeat him or her.”
The position was backed by FDC with Nandala saying that the opposition will likely be targeted with the provision, “I think we should make a law that no candidate during election should be arrested.”