The Attorney General William Byaruhanga has undertaken to review legal provisions concerning registration of voters with a view of coming up with a reasonable deadline that will allow more people to qualify for voting in the 2021 general election.
Byaruhanga said that this is an understanding reached between him and the Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama.
Byaruhanga, Byabakama together with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs were this afternoon appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to respond to salient issues concerning the upcoming February 2021 general election.
During their interface, Members of Parliament questioned why the Electoral Body had chosen to close the registration of voters, a year before the general election hence closing out a number of people who will have attained the age of 18 from participating in the political activity either as voters or candidates.
For purposes of the upcoming 2021 general election, the Electoral Commission closed registration of voters in December 2019 and has starting today February 19, 2020 displayed the Voter’s register across the country. The display exercise closes on March 10, 2020.
But Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda objected to the closure of registration of voters a year before the election saying that the cut-off date should be at least one month to the nomination of candidates so that potential voters and candidates are not disenfranchised.
He argued that there is no legal provision stopping registration of voters in December when an election is to be conducted a year later.
Byaruhanga said that the Electoral Commission’s hands were tied about the law since there are a number of activities that need to be accomplished before the election.
EC Chairperson Byabakama questioned how the Commission can budget for an indefinite register also noting that a continuous registration can create chaos in the electoral process and can deter the electoral body from holding a free and fair election.
However MPs insisted that the registration period of voters should be extended. Jacob Oboth, the Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee said that the timeframe for registration was not fixed by law and therefore can be revised.
Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba also objected to a cutoff date of more than one year saying that this disfranchises many voters. He suggested that EC provides a deadline of registration of voters of at least two months before nomination.
Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa argued that the law requires the Electoral Commission to update the voter’s register on a continuous basis and that providing a close up date is illegal.
Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu argued that the Constitution is supreme and provides the right to vote to all those aged 18 years.
Committee Chairperson Jacob Oboth directed that the Attorney General returns before the committee on Tuesday next week concerning the matter.