Parliament Rejects Restriction On Independent Presidential Candidates

Parliament has rejected the proposed eligibility requirements for independent presidential candidates in the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill, 2019.  The Bill seeks to among others amend the Presidential Elections Act, 2005, prescribe the period for holding presidential elections, time for campaigns and provide for the electronic transmission of results.  

It also aims at conforming to the ten recommendations of the Supreme Court in the 2016 presidential election petition and the Constitutional Amendment Act, 2018, which lifted the age limit cap for presidential candidates, extended the time for filing election petitions, hearing of petitions and the period for holding presidential by-elections when an election is nullified.    

The Bill also provides that independent candidates can only be nominated if they have never joined a political party or organization or if they left a political party or organisation 12 months to the nomination day. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which scrutinised the Bill, however proposed that a person can contest as an independent presidential candidate if they are not members of a political party or organisation by nomination day. 

The committee chairperson, Jacob Oboth, said the proposal conforms with the Constitutional provision that requires Parliament to make laws to regulate participation of independent candidates.  

The Deputy Attorney General, Jackson Kafuuzi, said that even people who didn’t participate in primaries of political parties or organisations shouldn’t be nominated as independent candidates.   

However, a number of MPs led by Fort Portal Municipality MP, Alex Ruhunda and Masindi Woman MP, Jalia Bintu expressed dismay with Kafuuzi’s amendment.  They instead support the committee proposal.  
However, some MPs including Erute South MP, Jonathan Odur rejected all proposals, saying they are restrictive. Odur moved that the provision is deleted from the Bill. 

The Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu urged MPs to reach consensus on the need for the eligibility requirements for independent candidates because the Constitution provides for a multiparty system of governance. 

He asked MPs what kind of governance system Uganda would have in the event that majority of MPs are independents.  

A number of MPs led by Busongora County MP, William Nzoghu noted that such a scenario wouldn’t result into a constitutional crisis because independents are recognized under the multiparty political dispensation.  

Nzoghu questioned how Kamuntu left Uganda People’s Congress and whether the party issued him a discharge certificate as proof that he no longer belongs to a political party as proposed in the Bill. 

Both Nzoghu and Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa found Kamuntu’s response wanting  because he failed to explain whether or not he is still a member of UPC.

Other MPs moved thereafter that the proposal be deleted. However, Kafuuzi moved that government is given more time to redraft the proposal to fulfill the constitutional provision that requires a law on independent candidates. 

Odur moved that the proposal is deleted from the Bill because the 1995 Uganda Constitution provides that Parliament shall by law regulate the manner of participation of independent candidates in elections, not eligibility requirements for such candidates.             

The Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga moved that the proposal is deleted from the Bill because it seemed to have been rejected by both sides of the House.    

The House was still considering other proposals in the Bill by the time of publishing this story. 

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Abitegeka Gerald

The News Editor ,Reporter at Kagadi Kibaale community Radio

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