MPs in standoff with Electoral Commission over nomination dates

Elijah Okupa

Legislators are displeased by the government’s refusal not to extend nomination time by the requested 14 days for local government and parliamentary contenders, citing the government’s sabotage of its citizens.

This was in response to Hon. Jackson Kafuuzi, the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) who relayed to Parliament on Wednesday 7 October, 2020, that it will not be possible for the government to extend the nomination dates as it had legal implications.

This follows a request by the House during the previous sitting to have the nomination dates extended to allow aspirants to apply for name change and register the change with the National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA).

Kafuuzi said, the Electoral Commission (EC) planned to have nomination of parliamentary candidates on 12 and 13 August 2020 giving ample time to the Commission to print ballot papers and declaration of results forms and, to package and dispatch polling materials by 2 January 2021 in compliance with Article 61, Clause 2 of the Constitution.

Following the lockdown due to Covid-19, the EC adjusted the timelines among which the aforementioned and other nominations were moved to 12 and 13 October 2020. This, he said, gave a reduced timeframe to execute its electoral activities.

“The Commission has to digitally capture nominations submitted by the aspirants from across the country within 20 days; this process for capture and quality assurance especially for parliamentary nominations should be concluded by 4 November 2020,” Kafuuzi said, adding that, an extension of this process would push the conclusion dates to 18 November, 2020.

He said that after this process, the samples are handed to the procured service providers for the production and printing of ballot papers and declaration forms expected to start on 8 November, 2020. This process is expected to take place in 25 days before the print outs are delivered to EC for packaging.

Kafuuzi added that the polling kits according to Article 61, Clause 2 of the Constitution, should be ready for delivery to the district polling stores by 2 January 2021.

The DAG further told MPs that the nominations at local council level were extended from 1 to 5 October 2020. This, he added, is the reason the EC is unable to extend the nomination dates.

Hon. Jacqueline Amongin (NRM, Ngora Woman MP) told Kafuuzi that Parliament has the powers to make adjustments on the dates of nomination if the government approaches it with the request.

“It would be prudent for us to make an adjustment because the justification is there and we do not want to leave out political aspirants because of a simple technicality of a name adjustment,” she added.

FDC, Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa disregarded the arguments tabled by Kafuuzi saying that they did not hold any water in regard to Parliament’s request.

“The Electoral Commission has a constituency template because they know the constituencies and if they do this work digitally, it is only a matter of inputting the data of those who have been nominated; this is an exercise that should not even last a week,” he added.

Henry Kibalya, NRM Bugabula County South MP argued that the dates of all these nominations were not cast in stone and are therefore, subject to change depending on the circumstances.

“We have nominations of NRM Youth Representatives on Monday but what happens when there is a petition? These petitions are known to take longer than a week,” he said, adding that, “Surely, a change in dates would not hurt”.

Mitooma Woman MP, Jovah Kamateeka said that the government would be unfair not to extend the nomination dates if the confirmatory information of the need for a deed poll by the EC indicating change of name came in the previous day.

“You have adamantly refused to change the nomination dates and therefore, expect people representing you to fail especially those who had passed through the NRM party primaries but find themselves in this predicament,” she added.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, also asked the Deputy Attorney General why the printed ballots must be dispatched to the district polling stations on 2 January 2021 way before the general elections in February.

She further urged the Attorney General to communicate the intended date of the general elections, adding that, “Why should we be left in the dark about the actual election dates; how are we going to plan as political aspirants if we do not know the dates”.

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, responded saying that the extension of nomination dates was not only affected by preparation of the electoral materials but also the time required to organise the election.

Byaruhanga further added that EC is obliged by law to communicate the election date after concluding presidential and parliament aspirant nominations.

The Speaker directed the Attorney General and the Electoral Commission to appear before the Legal and Parliamentary Committee to resolve the impasse.

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