Mwesige argues that a coalition which is not a registered political party cannot sponsor a candidate. He also stated that independent candidates can only contest for parliamentary seats. In effect, an individual must be sponsored or fielded by a political party to contest for presidency, district councillor or municipal or sub-county councillor.
There have been moves by the G6 coalition, which comprises Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Democratic Party (DP), Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congress (UPC), Justice Forum (JEEMA), Conservative Party (CP) and The Free Movement (TFM), to negotiate a possibility of fielding a single presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections. Advocates of the joint single opposition candidate argue that no single opposition party can single-handedly dislodge or effectively challenge the well-facilitated National Resistance Movement (NRM). And in the past two presidential elections in 1996 and 2001, President Museveniâ€™s main challengers Paul Ssemogerere and Col. Dr Kizza Besigye respectively were backed by coalitions.
In my view, it will be undemocratic to prohibit parties from jointly sponsoring candidates in the presidential, parliamentary or local government elections. It is an accepted and well-known practice in democracies for political parties to form coalitions for purposes of fielding candidates in elections. There is no legitimate reason that could justify outlawing candidates sponsored or fielded by party coalitions. I believe coalitions are healthy and do enhance political stability. The government risks being accused of trying to use the law to manipulate the forthcoming elections.
I have studied the Presidential Elections Bill now before parliament. Neither does the Bill expressly prohibit jointly-sponsored candidates nor make provision for them. Clause nine states that â€œnomination of a candidate may be made by a registered political organisation or political party sponsoring a candidate or by a candidate standing for election as an independent candidateâ€. The implication of this clause is that a candidate can only be sponsored by a single registered party or political organisation. Parliament should amend this clause to allow parties to jointly sponsor candidates if they so wish.
The Bill does not disallow independent presidential candidates. The Bill actually provides for the independent candidates. Clause nine provides for â€œa candidate standing for election as an independent without being sponsored by a political organisation or political partyâ€. Therefore, if Parliament passes that Presidential Elections Bill in its current form, individuals will be free to contest as presidential candidates during the 2006 presidential elections. Judging from Mwesige's pronouncement, it appears Government may be planning to propose an amendment to the Presidential Elections Bill to scrap provisions for independent presidential candidates. There might be fears that another individual from within NRM, for example Bidandi Ssali, may opt to contest as an independent presidential candidate.
In my view it would be undemocratic and unfortunate for the NRM to block any of its members from contesting either as a presidential or parliamentary candidate.
The law should also allow independents to contest as candidates in the local government elections. It is not compulsory for people to join political parties. I do not think it is democratic to force a person to join a political party in order to vie for an elective. If there is no provision for independent candidates in local government elections, it would imply joining a party is a condition for a person to run for an elective office at the district, sub-county or village level. I think this is utterly ridiculous.
Let parties field single candidate