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are mixed reactions from the general public, politicians and activists on the
Provisions of the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill, 2019, which was
approved by parliament on Thursday.
of the approved provisions are that presidential candidates will campaign from
7am to 6pm, the Supreme Court will handle and dispose of election petitions
within 45 days after the polls and presidential elections shall be held in the
first 30 days of the last 120 days to the expiry of the 5 year term of the incumbent.
President, Yoweri Museveni was sworn into office
on 12 May, 2016, which means his term will expire on May 12, 2021. According
to the new provision, presidential elections should therefore be held by February
revised road map by the Commission shows that presidential candidates will be
nominated on October 1st -2nd 2020 and polling day will fall between 10th
January and 8th February 2021. However, the Electoral Commission Spokesperson, Jotham Taremwa, says the electoral body cannot state a
definitive date until nominations are concluded.
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He declined to comment
on other provisions in the new law until it is
assented to by the President.
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The Electoral Commission is the implementing
agency for electoral laws so as to fulfill its mandate of organising regular,
free and fair elections. EC is now required to monitor state media with the aim
of ensuring that they provide equal air time and coverage to all presidential
State media are now regarded as a media house
where government holds a controlling interest Such media include Vision
Group and Uganda Broadcasting Corporation where government holds over 50% stake
and 100% stake respectively. The provision stems from recommendations by the
Supreme Court in the 2016 presidential election petition of Amama Mbabazi vs
Museveni, Attorney General and others.
The Supreme Court faulted UBC for
not providing equal treatment to all presidential candidates and noted that the
law didn’t set penalties for such breaches. Parliament
has now provided for penalties, whereby if a state media house is found to have
not given equal treatment to all presidential candidates, it will pay a maximum
fine of Shillings 10million.
The officer in charge of such a media house will
also pay a maximum fine of Shillings 480,000 or jail term not exceeding one
year or both. The UBC Managing Director, Winston Agaba says
that the national broadcaster has already considered implementation of the
provision in its draft budget of Shillings 18. 7 billion for 2020/2021.
He hopes that the Finance Ministry will release the funds on time,
once they are appropriated.
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Agaba says that implementing the provision
requires additional human and financial resources depending on the number of
presidential candidates and their campaign programs. He further explains that
UBC has 11 radio stations across the country including UBC Red Channel (98FM)
that has national coverage.
says UBC TV rather than Star TV will be used to cover the candidates because
Star TV broadcasts in Luganda and mainly airs music and movies.
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Some members of the general public interviewed
by URN have misgivings on the implementation of the new provisions. Businessman, Fred Ojangole lauds Parliament for
rejecting the proposed restrictions on the nomination of independent
He however says the law may not be implemented
due to political and economic reasons. Samuel Kaweesa, a Boda boda rider agrees with Ojangole but says the state media could still breach the law because they will use tax payers’ money to pay the fines. A shoe shiner, who preferred anonymity, says regardless of the law, the incumbent, President Museveni will be reelected next year.
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Asuman Basalirwa, the President of Justice
Forum-JEEMA and Bugiri Municipality MP welcomed the provision, saying the new
law gives hope that state media will give equal airtime to all
candidates. Basalirwa is one of the lawyers who represented Amama Mbabazi
in the 2016 election petition.
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He however says the prescribed campaign time is
inadequate and that the government should fast track a standalone law for
election campaign financing since MPs want a comprehensive law that will curb
commercialisation of politics.