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Facts to Know About the Newly Approved Electoral Bills

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law at the state house in Entebbe, 36 km (22 miles) south west of capital Kampala February 24, 2014. Museveni signed into law on Monday an anti-gay bill that toughens already strict legislation against homosexuals, defying warnings from the United States that relations could be complicated by the new rules. REUTERS/James Akena (UGANDA – Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY) – RTX19EDU

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu has tabled regulations that will restrict political party activities and propose unique methods for election of party officials in light of the Covid19 pandemic.

The Political Parties and Organisations (Conduct of Meetings and Elections) Regulations 2020 seeks to “enable a political party or organisation to elect leaders and sponsor candidates for nomination for general elections without compromising the health and safety of its members or the public.”

It also seeks to provide a new legal regime to aid political parties to elect leaders and sponsor candidates for nomination for general elections within the limitations imposed by the Public Health Act and other restrictions to contain the spread of Covid19.

Regulation 5(2) proposes other arrangements for meetings of political parties to include virtual meetings, resolutions by circulation, phased elections and open ballot.

It also includes election by Electoral College and physical meeting of party officials as long as they conform to the Covid19 social distancing rules, an exception which only applies to a restricted number of party officials.

To aid the application of these interventions, Regulation 5(3) overrides political parties’ constitutions and empowers Executive Committees to employ a combination of these methods in arriving at candidates to present for election of new party officials.

Holders of political party offices other than the Executive Committee of political parties will have their terms extended by six months at a time, should the Covid19 pandemic persist beyond the time prescribed.

The regulations define an Executive Committee as the governing body of political parties by whatever name called.

The Regulations, if passed, could see party candidates elected by selected party officials as opposed to universal suffrage to avoid the spread of Covid19.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga referred the Regulations, brought under the Political Parties and Organisations Act to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for further scrutiny within one week.

Electoral laws

President Museveni has, according to Minister Kamuntu, assented to Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Act 2020, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Act 2020 and the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2020.

The President has, however, returned the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2020, with the contentious clause said to be the creation of district woman councilors for every town council or sub-ounty as opposed to the current arrangement where a councilor represents two or more sub-counties.

INITIAL BILL

The Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions Amend­ment Bill 2019:

Clause 3 was deleted. It pro­posed that a per­son is only el­i­gi­ble to stand for elec­tion as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date if that per­son is not a mem­ber of a reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal party or or­ga­ni­za­tion, hav­ing ceased to be a mem­ber of a po­lit­i­cal party or or­gan­i­sa­tion be­fore nom­i­na­tion day, hav­ing had his or her mem­ber­ship of a po­lit­i­cal party or or­gan­i­sa­tion ter­mi­nated be­fore the nom­i­na­tion day or hav­ing never been reg­is­tered as a mem­ber of a po­lit­i­cal party or or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Clause 6 was deleted. This pro­posed pro­hi­bi­tion of Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates from re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from a for­eign gov­ern­ment.

Clause 13 was also deleted; this clause was in­tended to bar the Pres­i­dent from giv­ing do­na­tions dur­ing elec­tion pe­riod.

Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tions Amend­ment Bill, 2019:

The clauses that pro­vided for the el­i­gi­bil­ity of can­di­dates, sim­i­lar to those deleted in the Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions Amend­ment Bill, were also deleted from the Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tions Bill and the sub­se­quent bills.

Clause 1 was amended to pro­vide that where a new dis­trict or con­stituency is cre­ated af­ter the gen­eral par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, the elec­tions to fill the va­cant elec­tive po­si­tion for the dis­trict or con­stituency Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment shall be held at the next gen­eral par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

The nom­i­na­tion fee for the can­di­dates for Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tions was main­tained at 3,000,000 Uganda shillings.

The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion Amend­ment Bill, 2019:

The amend­ment pro­vides for elec­tronic dis­play of elec­tion re­sults for the can­di­dates dur­ing the tal­ly­ing process to en­sure trans­parency of the process.

Ac­cord­ing to this new law, in case of an elec­toral pe­ti­tion and it is found that the Elec­toral Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cer is per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, he/​she is li­able to pay a pro­por­tion of the com­pen­sa­tion. This serves as pun­ish­ment for re­turn­ing of­fi­cers who get in­volved in elec­tion mal­prac­tice.

The Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments Amend­ment Bill, 2019:

The amend­ment pro­vides that the in a sit­u­a­tion where a new Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment or ad­min­is­tra­tive unit is cre­ated af­ter the lo­cal Gov­ern­ment coun­cil elec­tions, the elec­tions to fill the elec­tive po­si­tions in the newly cre­ated lo­cal Gov­ern­ments or ad­min­is­tra­tive unit shall be held at the next Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Coun­cil elec­tions.

Clause 7 was amended set­ting the min­i­mum qual­i­fi­ca­tions for Sub-County Chair­per­sons at O’Level. The May­ors of Cities, Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and Di­vi­sions are also ex­pected to meet this re­quire­ment. Only the Coun­cilors were ex­empted from these re­quire­ments with the new amend­ment.

The Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties and Or­gan­i­sa­tions Amend­ment Bill, 2019:

With this amend­ment, each po­lit­i­cal party is re­spon­si­ble for the code of con­duct of its can­di­dates’ sup­port­ers dur­ing the elec­toral processes.

In this law, mem­bers of Po­lit­i­cal par­ties their sup­port­ers will be banned from in­tim­i­dat­ing, dis­rupt­ing meet­ings or ral­lies of any mem­ber or sup­porter of the per­son af­fil­i­ated to other par­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions.

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