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Electoral Reforms: Gov’t Seeks to Delay Polls in New Districts

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This proposal is a departure from the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 that provides that elections should be held sixty days after the creation of a new district or constituency. This comes at a time when government is struggling to fund elections in newly created districts and constituencies.
Attorney General William Byaruhanga
Government wants elections in newly created districts and constituencies halted until the next round of general elections.

This is one of the proposals in the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019 tabled by the Attorney General before parliament on Thursday last week. The Bill seeks to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 to stop polls in new districts until the General elections.

“Where a new district or constituency is created after the general elections, the elections for the district or constituency shall not be held until the next general elections, to fill the vacant elective positions,” reads the proposal.  

This proposal is a departure from the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 that provides that elections should be held sixty days after the creation of a new district or constituency. 

This comes at a time when government is struggling to fund elections in newly created administrative units including sub counties, town councils, districts and constituencies.  

Parliament approved the creation of several districts in phased manner in 2015 effective 1st July 2016 up until 2019.  They include among others Nabilatuk, Kapelebyong, Bugweri, Kwania, Kassanda and Kikuube district.  

However, by close of the 2018/2019 financial year, Electoral Commission had failed to conduct polls in new district citing lack of funds. Several new districts including Obongi, Kazo, Rwampara, Kitagwenda, Madi-Okollo and Karenga became operational effective July 1, 2019.         

Funding Restrictions

 

The Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019 also wants parliamentary candidates to declare the source of their campaign funds within 14 days after nomination.

The bill seeks to ban candidates or their agents from getting funding from any foreign government, institution or person which has demonstrated an intention to overthrow the lawfully established government or cause insecurity. They are also banned from getting funds from terrorist organizations.  

“A candidate or a candidate’s agent, who contravenes this section, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred and twenty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.”  

The state will receive any money or assistance obtained by the candidate from the unlawful funding sources once he or she is convicted.  

Independent candidates 

The Bill also provides that a person can only be nominated as an independent candidate if they have never been registered members or ceased to be a registered members of a political party or organization 12 months before nomination day.  

The bill also states that an independent candidate is one who has complied with the constitution, rules and regulations of the political party or organization on exiting the party as a member and was discharged by the political party or organization.       

A person elected as an independent candidate may form an alliance with a registered political party or organization but this alliance shall not mean that he or she has joined the political party or organization.