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Legal Committee Wants Elections in New Districts Halted

The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is of the view that elections in newly created districts and constituencies should be halted until the next round of general elections.
14 Feb 2020 07:14

Audio 5

The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has proposed that elections in newly created districts and constituencies should be halted until the next general elections. 

The proposal is among several others in the Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill, 2019 and the Local Government Elections Amendment Bill, 2019.

Last year, government tabled the two Bills as part of electoral reforms. Also tabled were the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill, 2019, Political Parties and Organisations Amendment Bill, 2019 and the Electoral Commission Amendment Bill, 2019.  The five Bills were referred to the legal committee for further scrutiny. 

In its report, the committee has supported the proposal to delay elections in districts and local government units created after the general elections.   

Government has proposed in the Parliamentary Elections Bill that when a new district or constituency is created after a general election, the elective positions created are not filled immediately as has been the case, but are filled at the next general elections.  

The Bill seeks to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 that provides that elections should be held sixty days after the creation of a new district or constituency.   The Legal Committee supports the proposed amendment because the 1995 Uganda Constitution provides that the commencement of a constituency and the election of Members of Parliament for a newly created district “shall come into effect upon the next dissolution of Parliament.”  

Also, the proposal will help Parliament and the government to plan and budget for an exact number of MPs.  Currently, “the number of Members of Parliament cannot be ascertained since this can change any time from the creation of new districts.” 

Parliament approved the creation of several districts in phased manner in 2015 effective July 1st, 2016 up until 2019.  They include among others Nabilatuk, Kapelebyong, Bugweri, Kwania, Kassanda and Kikuube district.    Electoral Commission has since failed to conduct polls in some of the new districts citing lack of funds.

Jacob Oboth, the chairperson of the committee says that proposal is progressive and should be supported.

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The Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga noted that the Parliamentary Commission has been constrained due to the increasing number of MPs.

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Oboth, also West Budama South MP, however, noted that there is need to amend the proposal so that it aligns with Constitutional provisions.

The Legal Committee report also recommends that the Electoral Commission should not hold elections for local government units created after the general election.

Kitagwenda County MP, Abas Agaba, who presented the committee report, explained why Parliament should pass the proposal.    

He says the proposal was mooted due to the challenges such as lack of funds to hold elections in newly created local government and administrative units.   

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The committee also rejected provisions that seek to limit participation of independent candidates in the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. 

Oboth says that the committee opposed the proposal because it is unconstitutional. It breaches constitutional provisions including an individual's freedom of association.