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Gov’t Moots Electoral Reform Committee

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An Electoral Reform Committee may soon be established once parliament adopts new amendments to the Electoral Commission Act.
Attorney General William Byaruhanga before Parliament.

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An Electoral Reform Committee may soon be established once parliament adopts new amendments to the Electoral Commission Act.

The establishment of the committee is among the reforms in the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019 tabled before Parliament last week by the Attorney General William Byaruhanga.

The Electoral Reforms Committee will work in liaison with Uganda Law Reform Commission in studying electoral laws, consult relevant stakeholders on proposed electoral reforms and others.

The Committee according to the Bill will also be responsible with recommending to the Justice Minister concrete proposals for electoral reforms and synthesize various reforms proposed by political parties, election observers, monitors, Civil Society  and others arising from court decisions.

Election monitors, Politicians and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have in the past complained about failure by government to implement reforms resulting from election petitions and court decisions.

Richard Ssewakiryanga, the Executive Director of the National Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Forum today tasked Government on the 2016 electoral reforms as recommended by the Supreme Court Judges led by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe while delivering their judgment in the Amama Mbabazi Versus Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Others Presidential Election Petition.

These include extending the filing and determination period of presidential election petitions to 60 days to enable the concerned parties and court to adequately prepare and present their case, regulation of public officials in elections and punishment of media houses, which refuse to grant equal airtime to all presidential candidates and prohibition of donations during elections among others.

Ssewakiryanga also asked government to also include the electoral reforms proposed by other players like CSOs through the Citizens Compact that were generated following countrywide consultations ahead of the 2016 General Elections.

Government in the Bill proposes that the Electoral Commission Chairperson shall constitute the Electoral Reform Committee within 6 months after the date of the last general elections and the Committee make recommendations to the minister in 18 months after being constituted.

“The Minister shall present the proposed electoral reforms to Parliament, if any, at least two years before the next general elections. The Minister may, in consultation with the Commission, by statutory instrument, make regulations prescribing the terms and conditions of service of the Electoral Reform Committee,” reads part of the Bill.

It is proposed that the committee shall comprise of 4 persons representing the Electoral Commission, one of whom, the Secretary to the Commission shall be the chairperson of the Committee.

The proposed committee will also have 3 persons representing the Attorney General, a Secretary of the Uganda Law Reform Commission, a person representing political parties nominated by the National Consultative Forum, a person representing Civil Society appointed by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Local Government Ministry Permanent Secretary and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. 

Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba told URN that the proposal is not in good faith since it suggests a study and compilation of reforms after the general elections.

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