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Parliament Passes Political Parties and Organisations Amendment Bill

The new law now requires political parties and organisations and their leaders, officials, members, candidates, agent or representatives to comply with the prescribed code of conduct during elections. It will also regulate their campaign activities and relationship with the Electoral Commission, election observers, the media and Uganda Police Force.
Attorney General William Byaruhanga tabled the electoral reform Bills last week. Photo by Parliament of Uganda.

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Parliament has passed the Political Parties and Organisations Amendment Bill, 2019.  Members of Parliament considered the Bill's 17 proposed amendments to the Political Parties and Organisations Act, 2005. 

In 2005, Parliament passed the law to regulate the financing, formation, functioning, registration and membership of political parties and organisations.  The Act also empowered the Minster, in consultation of the Electoral Commission and political parties and organisations and with the approval of Parliament, to prescribe a code of conduct for political parties and organisations. 

However, the government tabled the Bill last July seeking to among others provide that the Minister of Justice shall no longer prescribe the code of conduct. These powers have been reverted to Parliament in the new law. 

The National Consultative Forum of Political Parties and Organisations shall also enforce the code of conduct. 

 The new law now requires political parties and organisations and their leaders, officials, members, candidates, agent or representatives to comply with the prescribed code of conduct during elections.   

It will also regulate their campaign activities and relationship with the Electoral Commission, election observers, the media and Uganda Police Force.

In the new law, political parties and organizations and their members and supporters will be banned from among others intimidating, disrupting meetings or rallies of any member or supporter of the person affiliated to other parties and organizations.

However, the provision was passed after a sharp debate on whether or not parties should control their supporters.

Pakwach Woman MP, Jane Pacutho opposed the provision while Aringa North MP, Godfrey Onzima says it is vital for creating harmony amongst parties, candidates and supporters during elections.     

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Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal says that the provision will impose obligations on political parties to train and educate their supporters on how they should behave during the elections. 

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The new law also provides that an aggrieved party or person shall in writing report a  breach to the forum and the Forum can also on its own inquire into or investigate any breach of the code.   

The Forum can caution, warn individuals or parties and organizations and direct them to comply with the code within 30 days, recommend that a party or organisation should take disciplinary action against a member, agent or representative within 30 days.   

It can also recommend to the Electoral Commission that it should apply to the High Court for an order to de-register a political party or organization. 

Budadiri West County MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi, however, says that the Electoral Commission should not control operations of political parties.     

The Deputy Attorney General, Jackson Kafuuzi says the EC is mandated to manage the electoral process and therefore is empowered to issue directives to political parties and organizations to conduct the elections.  

But the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga noted that MPs should not curtail EC’s powers.       

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The Political Parties and Organisations Amendment Bill into law mean that Parliament has now disposed of the five electoral reform bills from government. 

Last year, the Attorney General, William  Byaruhanga tabled Political Parties and Organisations Amendment Bill, Electoral Commission Amendment Bill, Presidential Elections Amendment Bill, Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill and Local Governments Amendment Bill, 2019. 

The five Bills were all passed into law this week and are awaiting presidential assent.