By Moses Mulondo
KAMPALA - The National Resistance Movement (NRM) has assured the opposition that it is committed to the necessary electoral reforms for credible elections in 2016.
Speaking at the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) meeting at Ntinda, health minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda said the NRM party is willing to hand over power to the opposition if they win elections.
“The Government is in advanced stages of working on electoral reforms. A cabinet sub-committee is considering proposals from various stakeholders. It will bring the proposed reforms to the Cabinet for approval after which we shall table them before Parliament,” Rugunda said.
Rugunda, who is also the chairman for the National Consultative Forum, allayed the oppositions’ fears on electoral reforms, emphasising that NRM is committed to enacting laws for free and fair elections.
“The first point in NRM’s 10-point programme is advancing democracy. NRM has implemented many reforms, which have deepened democracy in Uganda. It is even NRM that has proposed introducing an electronic voters’ register to minimise cheating.”
The minister responded to remarks by Forum for Democratic Change’s Augustine Ruzindana that the NRM is fused with the state.
“Ruzindana should have acknowledged that we have made progress. At one time, NRM was a state organ, but it is no longer the case. It is now a party like any other.”
Rugunda also responded to remarks by JEEMA’s Umar Kalinge Nyago that the NRM behaves as if it will be in power forever and, therefore, not willing to hand over power.
He said: “NRM is ready to hand-over power if Ugandans reject it and vote for another party. NRM is not sticking to power. That is why we were defeated in the Luwero by-election.”
The health minister assured the stakeholders that both NRM chairman President Yoweri Museveni and the party secretary general Amama Mbabazi support the IPOD agenda.
The aim is to generate consensus on the necessary political reforms to establish a firm foundation for democracy in Uganda.
“NRM has spearheaded many reforms, which have promoted democracy in Uganda. Why should people doubt NRM’s commitment to electoral reforms? It is actually the NRM that is spearheading the reforms because it believes in having transparent and more credible elections.”
'Reforms needed early enough'
During the dinner, JEEMA, through its spokesperson Nyago, handed over the chairmanship of IPOD to NRM.
The DP Secretary General, Matthias Nsubuga, said both the Government and Parliament should ensure that the next business after passing budget should be discussing and passing electoral reforms.
“In Kenya, electoral reforms were passed two years before the elections. We need to pass the reforms early enough so that we can have ample time to sensitise the masses about the new laws,” said Nsubuga.
The UPC spokesman Okello Lucima re-emphasised the call for a national conference bringing together all parties, the civil society, religious leaders, professional bodies, cultural leaders, trade unions and other stakeholders to generate a national consensus on the necessary constitutional and electoral reforms before the matter is taken to Parliament.
Raising concern over the Government’s delay to table the electoral reforms in Parliament, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, last week told journalists that she had written to the Executive for a roadmap on the electoral reforms, but she did not get a response.
The opposition parties, the civil society and Uganda Joint Christian Council have called for an independent Electoral Commission, removal of the army from politics, a transparent and verifiable voters’ register and measures to restrain the NRM leaders from using public funds.
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