Gov't Seeks to Suspend Delegates Conferences Ahead of 2021 Polls

The regulations seek to provide guidance on the conduct of meetings and elections at a time when the world is challenged with managing crowds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
02 Jul 2020 20:04
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Kamuntu.

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The government has proposed that Political Parties waive the requirement of holding delegates conferences to determine it's official candidates for different leadership positions.  Instead, the parties have been advised to allow their top organs to handpick the candidates.

This and other proposals are carried in the 2020 regulations for Political Parties and Organisations which were tabled before Parliament on Thursday by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu. The regulations seek to provide guidance on the conduct of meetings and elections at a time when the world is challenged with managing crowds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Prof. Kamuntu, the regulations, if followed, will safeguard the health of participants in electoral activities and enable political party's or organisations to elect leaders and sponsor candidates for nomination  without compromising the health and safety of the public.

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The regulations come a few weeks after the Electoral Commission (EC) issued a revised roadmap for the 2021 general elections, in which open-air campaigns were banned. Instead, the Electoral Commission asked candidates to use digital platforms to reach their electorate.

But different political players have expressed reservations on the possibility of holding an election during the pandemic while others questioned how internal processes in the parties were to be conducted. In particular, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party Central Executive Committee (CEC) has been engaged in meetings to decide a mode for identifying candidates.

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga sent the proposed regulations to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for scrutiny.

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Through the regulations, the government has outlined seven ways in which Political Parties can conduct internal elections without contravening the provisions of the Public Health Act.

The government proposes that parties hold virtual meetings through video conferencing, and then, make resolutions and circulate them to members who are not physically present. The members will then take a vote on major decisions by signing to assent or dissent. The parties will also be required to hold elections in a phased manner. It also suggested that candidates can be chosen by an electoral college comprising members of an organ of the party or an organisation other than that designated by the party Constitution.

The government argues that given the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of risking the lives of members, the parties can disregard their Constitutions by giving power to the executive committee which shall have the power to employ any of the suggested procedures.

“Notwithstanding any provision in the constitution of a political party or organisation, the executive committee shall have the power to employ the method of election or meeting... that allows the holding of the election or meeting without contravening the provisions of the Public Health Act...” the regulations state.

The government also suggests that the executive committee of a political party may extend the term of office of elected members of organs where it is not practical to hold elections in accordance with the Political Parties and Organisations Act. The extended term of office shall be for six months from the date of lifting the measures imposed by the Public Health Act.

All political parties have previously chosen their national leaders for different regions and presidential candidates through delegates’ conferences which attracts people representing their structures from across the country. 

But besides the ruling  NRM party which chooses its flag bearers for Parliamentary and Local Government positions through universal adult suffrage, all the opposition parties use electoral colleges where specific members of their grassroots structures participate in the voting to identify candidates.

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