Parliament amends electoral laws

DSC 7213Parliament has passed two bills making amendments to the electoral procedures and requirements for presidential and parliamentary candidates ahead of next year’s general elections.
In the two bills – the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2015, Parliament approved government’s proposal to have polling stations close at 4.00p.m. instead of 5.00p.m. on the polling day.
The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affair had observed that the reduction of polling time by one hour would disenfranchise voters considering that voting materials usually reach late in most parts of the country. Parliament rejected the Committee’s recommendation to stick to 5.00pm as polling closing time.
Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for early 2016.

The Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2015; EC won’t give money to presidential candidates
Presidential candidates will be required pay Shs 20 million in nomination fees but will get no funding from government for their campaigns.
Parliament approved the increment in nomination fees from Shs 8m, and scrapped the government’s contribution to presidential candidates, as it considered and approved clauses of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
The Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2015 sought to revise the nomination fees and facilitation provided to candidates; remove the requirement for a candidate to campaign in every district and related matters.
In the Bill, government had proposed that the Electoral Commission would offer a sum of Shs 50m to each of the candidate as “contribution to be used solely for the election.”
Hon. Odonga Otto (FDC, Aruu) and Hon. James Kakooza (NRM, Kabula) said the Electoral Commission should not give any money to persons vying for president but that they should fund their own campaigns.
Hon. Otto explained that the Electoral Commission should instead provide funds to political parties well ahead of the campaign period.
MPs argued that not giving candidates facilitation would prevent individuals from turning the process into a business, and rejected government’s appeal for the Electoral Commission to give the candidates money.

The Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2015
In this proposed law, Parliament voted to increase the nomination fees payable by parliamentary aspirants from the current Shs 200,000 to Shs 3m.
The Committee observed that the economy had gone through many changes since the fee of Shs 200,000 was fixed in 2005, and recommended that the amount be raised to Shs 3m.
Members said it was necessary to increase the nomination fees to lock out persons they termed as ‘jokers.’
The Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill sought to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 to revise the nomination fees payable by parliamentary aspirants; provide for polling to close at 4.00p.m. on polling day; require the Electoral Commission to provide for persons engaged in electoral activities or on duty in specific professions or areas to vote.
Honourable Anifa Kawooya (NRM, Sembabule district) suggested that the fee be fixed at Shs 5m in order to “have a clean process and avoid mediocrity.”
A section of MPs however were against using the nomination fee to lock out potential competitors.
Honourable Vincent Kyamadidi (NRM, Rwampara) said it was dangerous to make the nomination fee prohibitive arguing that many of them would have failed to stand for parliament in 2011 if the fee had been set high.
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Wafula Oggutu, said a high nomination fee would be discriminative to the majority of Ugandans wishing to stand for Parliament.
“We should be considerate and fair to those standing against us. It is unfortunate that we are using money as a weapon to win,” said Hon. Wafula Oguttu.
“It is sad that we have passed a law that locks out our competitors. A councilor or teacher will not be able to raise Shs 3m to stand against us. This will not help the country move forward,” he added.

The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Attorney General, Hon. Fred Ruhindi, has moved to withdraw the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which sought to re-designate Registrars as District Election Administrators and provide for the Electoral Commission to specify their duties. The Bill also sought to provide for the Electoral Commission to appoint Assistant Returning Officers.
Honourable Wafula Oguttu said presenting the electoral laws late showed that government was not interested in having the laws in place.
He was unhappy that the laws had been considered and passed when the electoral process had started.
“Smart people don’t behave like that. It shows that we are not organised and are doing everything in a hurry,” he said adding, “We should do this properly, according to our Constitution.”
The Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business, Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, said Parliament had performed well and had done what was necessary to conduct a good election.

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