A cabinet sub-committee is refining constitutional amendments. The amendments seek to, among others, give voters powers to recall MPs. DAVID LUMU looks at Articles 83 and 84, which the Government wants to amend.
A proposal that the power to recall an MP should lie in the hands of voters has caused unease within Parliament with some legislators suggesting that the re-introduction of the power by voters to recall MPs under the current multiparty dispensation would be problematic.
MPs had got a reprieve because Article 84 (7) of the Constitution says the right to recall a Member of Parliament shall only exist while the Movement political system is in operation. This had made it difficult for voters to recall their representatives even if they were non-performing.
Political analysts argue that if passed, the proposal would cure the political contradictions where voters on one hand had the right to vote, but on the other lacked the power to check those they have elected.
Prof. Sabiiti Makara of the department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University, backed the proposal. “They hold power on behalf of the people. If the voters strongly feel that you are not performing your role, then they should have the power to recall you no matter the political dispensation.”
However, some lawmakers are protesting that given the cut-throat multiparty competition punctuated with the monetisation of politics and the limited voter civic education about the role of an MP, allowing voters to recall an MP would defeat the concept of parliamentary democracy.
Dokolo Woman MP and Opposition Chief Whip Cecilia Ogwal told New Vision that the reason why the reinstatement of the voter’s right to recall an MP is unpopular within the parliamentary corridors is that there are some MPs who are effective and solid on ground, but are non-performers in Parliament.
Dokolo Woman MP and Opposition Chief Whip Cecilia Ogwal
Ogwal also argued that there are also those who are performing well in Parliament, but poorly in the constituencies.
“Where do you put such MPs? In my view it would be very wrong to return the power to recall an MP to the voters. It is not wise. I would not support it. Politics has been monetised and in this era anything can happen. They can even launch a bribe scheme against an enemy MP and pump money into the constituency,” she said.
Ogwal said the only way out is for voters to strictly scrutinise the MP before they elect him or her to Parliament.
“I advise the voters to elect a good person. If it happens that they elect a wrong person, then they should suffer the consequences. The concept should not be just giving power to the voters to recall. It should be more about the protection of the MP from malicious scams engineered against him or her by political saboteurs.”
Under the Movement system, Article 84 gave powers to the voters to recall an MP upon gathering two thirds of the signatures from the constituency.
The proponents of recall want the article to provide that the right of the electorate and the political parties that sponsor candidates for election to recall an MP under the multi-party system be recognised and strictly adhered to.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi chairs the cabinet sub-committee that is looking at the constitutional amendments.
What MPs think about the proposal
(Left-right): MPs Sam Otada, Lulume Bayiga, Jacob Wangolo
Sam Otada, Kibanda County MP: Under the legal regime where you have MPs under a party, it is difficult for voters to recall an MP. It should be left the way it is.
Lulume Bayiga, Buikwe South: I would be happy to empower people to hold MPs accountable because it is not a matter of going to Parliament and relaxing. The unfortunate bit is that voters are not empowered to even know the role of MPs.
Jacob Wangolo, Bunyole East: It could be right, but I do not agree with it because people would abuse it. People can base the recall on rumours. So, it is not right to give the voters power to recall legislators.