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Why new electoral reforms will leave no one behind

By Admin

Added 9th August 2019 04:40 PM

The proposed amendments are partly a product of cordial engagements under the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) – a grouping of parties with representation in Parliament namely; National Resistance Movement (NRM), led by President Yoweri Museveni, as the National Chairman; FDC, DP, UPC and JEEMA.

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The proposed amendments are partly a product of cordial engagements under the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) – a grouping of parties with representation in Parliament namely; National Resistance Movement (NRM), led by President Yoweri Museveni, as the National Chairman; FDC, DP, UPC and JEEMA.

OPINION

By Milly Babirye Babalanda

Government has introduced several electoral reforms for debate and consideration before Parliament.

In all, there are five reform bills, namely; the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019, Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019, Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill 2019, Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2019 and Political Parties and Other Organizations (Amendment) Bill 2019.

This is a very healthy step since various interest groups have always demanded changes to the law to ease democratization in general.

Without going into the merits and demerits of individual proposed amendments, I wish, from the onset, to urge everybody to embrace the process of legally and constitutionally amending law for purposes of improving the same. Law reform is part of the bigger agenda of transformation and the so much loved “change”. It is not about faces of people, but the rules by which they play.

The proposed amendments are partly a product of cordial engagements under the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) – a grouping of parties with representation in Parliament namely; National Resistance Movement (NRM), led by President Yoweri Museveni, as the National Chairman; FDC, DP, UPC and JEEMA.

But the demand for reforms predates the IPOD summits, considering, for instance, that in 2016, the Supreme Court recommended them in respect of the Amama Mbabazi petition challenging President Museveni’s re-election. Civil Society has also been agitating for the same.

Therefore, the question of whether reforms are needed or not is, objectively, answerable in the affirmative. There is no controversy there, although the legal regime as it is would still serve the purpose, but as a democratic system, the Government has to double-check and fix loopholes. MPs have an important task at hand to give the proposals much attention and come up with a good package to satisfy certain “irreducible minimums” in our electoral code.

On the side, the shadow attorney general, Wildred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) is fronting a private member’s Bill, the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2019 whose contents will be addressed as necessary and then there is the process of establishing of the Constitutional Review Commission, which is in advanced stages.

These moves, facilitated by Government, suggest ultimate political and administrative will and I hope that they will not be opposed simply to shun Government. All ideas, from whichever side, are the “property” of Government to employ to the satisfaction of the greater populace.

The reforms include a provision for mechanisms to better manage independents and how they relate with political parties. Uganda runs a multiparty dispensation, for those who may not know. If the reforms are to hold, political parties will enjoy unprecedented internal discipline levels. People will cherish their belonging to organised, legally recognised groups or choose to be free on clear terms.

Parties will not be used as addresses for political deal cutting; ideological depth will take root. Every organised group will know its loyal membership and plan appropriately for them. Parties should be as organised as corporate companies because indeed they are corporate legal entities working in a political environment.

President Museveni is consistently selling the idea of political party leadership as an engine of development and prosperity, wherein members are mobilised to think first about “ennyingiza or enfuna y’omumaka” (household income) before anything else. Parties need to inspire and cause change in mindset! How beautiful would it be if for a party like NRM with an estimated 15 milion members constituted them into a commercial bloc- like a SACCO! How much would it be worth?

Furthermore, infighting and intrigue in political parties will be minimised since losers in internal party elections will have known in advance and committed themselves to the possible scenarios in advance.

As things stand, an aspirant goes into a race without doing the correct thing to ensure success and when they fail they blame everyone and not themselves. People will take personal responsibility for their decisions and behave accordingly whatever the outcome. The fewer aspirants (we have) coming as independents, the better for multiparty growth. I say this because institutional interests should outweigh individual aspirations.

Politics would also become generally cost-effective - at an individual, party and national level. Every time there is unending contestation and uncertainty, it costs money to arbitrate, vie and counter vie and this shoots up the cost of public administration generally instead of placing emphasis on service delivery.

Individuals should not waste money testing their luck and “unpreparedness” hoping for miracles. There was a proposal to limit election spending some time back whose fate I am not fully acquainted with at this point but the reforms in focus can serve as a helpful intervention. The overall aim is to sanitise elections to achieve credible legitimacy beyond what is currently possible.

The Government and the NRM are committed to employing all in their means to midwife a healthy 2021 general election and others after. All that is expected of other interest groups is to constructively evaluate the proposals on table and make their own input. It is a collective task.

After due consultations, MPs will do their job. Whoever will find the proposals completely unacceptable is probably late for 2021 but the reforms are not tied to the next general election but to posterity-until, it is deemed worthy to review them again.

The writer is a Personal Assistant to the National Chairman, NRM, and Senior Presidential Adviser

 

 

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