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Post by sol_drethedon on Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:31 pm

Lawmakers push for Bills to overhaul electoral body, cut President’s powers


Civil society actors have received bipartisan support in Parliament for two “model” electoral reform Bills in which they are calling for an overhaul of the Electoral Commission ahead of the 2016 polls.

The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill and The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill suggest a lack of faith in the current electoral body and seek among other things, to restore credibility in the electoral process.

The draft Bills also seek to slash the powers of the President in appointing commissioners of the Electoral Commission. They want the President’s role to be “purely ceremonial”.

Under the proposed reforms, Mr Crispy Kaheru, the coordinator of Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), said the Appointments Committee of Parliament shall nominate to the President seven persons who shall be appointed members of the commission.
CCEDU, a broad coalition that brings together over 600 civil society organisations, was formed in the run-up to the 2011 general elections to advocate for integrity in the electoral process by promoting a social and political system that enhances fair, equitable and transparent electoral processes.

The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2013 proposes to exclude a recent MP or a local government body chairperson or councillor and the members of the executive of a political party or organisation from being appointed members of the EC.

Mr Kaheru said: “While improving the integrity of elections requires reforms in many areas, the Electoral Commission, as the cornerstone of the electoral process, requires specific and priority attention.”

Asked how the proposed electoral reforms would fit into the wider reforms being pushed by Opposition leaders, Mr Kaheru said theirs were “model” proposals. He said the draft Bills could either be taken over by the Attorney General’s office or be presented on the floor of Parliament as private member’s Bills. “We want to ensure that we urgently get the much needed reforms around the Electoral Commission,” Mr Kaheru said.

Minister for the Presidency Frank Tumwebaze has said, however, that civil society should be impartial. “If their moves are clearly partisan schemes seen to be working against an individual leader or party, then, their Bills will be opposed,” Mr Tumwebaze said.
He added: “As NRM, we have since learnt the tricks of our opponents that resort to using protracted platforms of civil society, NGOs, churches and sometimes cultural institutions to advance their agendas.”

EC’s response
EC spokesman Jotham Taremwa said the electoral body is doing all it can [to re-gain public confidence] based on its Road Map to 2016 which was unveiled in May last year and will keep Opposition politicians on board so that “they do not have grounds to boycott” the coming polls.
He acknowledged that there are questions about credibility of the EC because the President, who appoints commissioners, is also chairman of the ruling NRMO party.

Mr Kaheru said the Electoral Commission Act, cap 140 must provide clear qualification requirements to guarantee that persons appointed have the necessary experience, qualifications and independence to execute their duty. He said this will address the perception of bias.


Members of Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, whose docket handles electoral reform Bills, have welcomed the proposed reforms to the EC.
They advised the backers of the Bills [Simon Mulondo (NRM), Alice Alaso (FDC) and Sam Otada (Independent)] to seek leave of Parliament to present the proposed reforms as private members’ Bills.

Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi said: “We are working on the wider electoral reforms ahead of the 2016 general elections. Our view is that all these reforms will deliver transparent, free and fair elections.”

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