The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has gone to the Constitutional Court to contest what they see as unfair distribution of the nine seats that Uganda is entitled to in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
FDC in a July 24, 2006 letter to Parliament said that, â€œThe rules require that Parliament uses proportional party representationâ€, and threatened to go as far as the East African Court of Justice.
Whereas the opposition quoted no figures to buttress their case, Clerk to Parliament, Aeneas Tandekwiire in his August 2, 2006 reply articulated the formula that was used in allocating the seats. Tandekwiireâ€™s mathematics clearly shows that even in the best-case scenario, the opposition could not, and cannot get more than two slots.
In his letter, Tandekwiire challenges the FDC; â€œI would have found it extremely useful if you revealed the formula that you applied to come to the conclusion that the opposition was entitled to three seats....â€
Categories in the House
Tandekwiire notes that NRM has 206 seats in Parliament, FDC 37, UPC 9, DP 8, CP 1, and JEEMA 1, giving a total of 262 MPs elected on party tickets. The other two categories of representation are UPDF (10 MPs) and independents (37) who, he notes, are required by the Constitution to be non-partisan and therefore cannot be claimed by any of the political parties above. This brings the total number of elected MPs (six parties, UPDF and independents) to 309. The others are the 13 ex-officials (un-elected ministers), giving a grand total of 322 MPs in all.
The 37 MPs from FDC comprise 12% or one-eighth (1/8) of all the 309 elected MPs. With this numerical strength, for the nine slots to EALA, FDC alone would get 1.1 seats, going by the Clerkâ€™s calculation. This would in practical terms translate to one person.
If all the opposition MPs from FDC, UPC, DP, JEEMA and CP came together, they would be 56 out of 309 elected MPs. Therefore to get its right share out of the nine slots to EALA, the entire opposition would settle for 1.6 seats. This would in practical terms translate to two people at best. However, Tandekwiire notes that the total membership of 309 MPs used in the two scenarios above includes the Independents and UPDF who should not belong to any party in Parliament. If the 10 UPDF and 37 Independent MPs are excluded from the 309, you remain with 262.
The 37 FDC MPs out of 262 is 14.1% or 1/7 of all MPs elected on party tickets. For the nine slots to the EALA, FDC alone would get 1.3 seats, which is one person.
If all political parties in opposition (FDC, UPC, DP, JEEMA and UPC) come together they would have, as stated above, 56 out of 262 MPs elected on party tickets. This works out to be 21.4% or 1/5 of the 262 MPs. For the nine slots to EALA, the entire opposition would be entitled to 1.8 persons (two seats).
â€œThis is the best the opposition can attain and is what I settled for in distributing the seats,â€ Tandekwiire says. He contends that there is no formula anywhere that would give the opposition more than two slots.
The term of the current EALA expires in November 2006, when the Secretariat in Arusha expects the national Parliaments of member states to forward the names of the regional MPs. This means that those who have been nominated by political parties here have at least five months to sit at home before they can assume office. This raises the question of why they had to be selected early. To the opposition, the stampede was calculated to deny them their right share of the seats.
Tandekwiire rejects this allegation in his letter: â€œYour (FDC) assertion that I am in the process of carrying out the elections in a hurried manner to give advantage to the NRM is based on total ignorance of the facts. It was a genuine request by the would-be candidates to carry out the elections early and relieve them the burden of permanently camping at Parliament chasing MPs for votes,â€ he says.
Since when did setting of rules and timetables for elections become the work of candidates? Tandekwiire did not go into this in his reply, but only sounded a caution: â€œYou are at liberty to proceed and petition the East African Court of Justice for redress but I hope you will not embarrass yourselves in the process. I am sure the Court will apply whatever formula it has and will not end up awarding the opposition in Uganda three seats out of nine.â€
All the same FDC went ahead to nominate Wandera Ogalo and Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu to fill the two slots, but said they would press ahead with their court case for a third slot. This jostling is understandable, considering that these were the countryâ€™s first EALA elections under a multiparty setting, the first having been held under the Movement.
The first elections were held in Parliament under â€˜individual meritâ€™ system and the MPs selected Sarah Bagalaliwo, Yona Kanyomozi, Wanyoto Mutende, Irene Ovonji, Sheila Kawamara, Mugisha Muntu, Capt Richard Dudu, Medi Kaggwa and Wandera Ogalo. Under multiparty system, Wandera and Mugisha Muntu found themselves firmly in FDC, but Yona Kanyomozi was not clear â€” though he campaigned for FDC President Kizza Besigye â€” which is probably why he lost out.
Among the incumbents who found themselves in NRM, only Wanyoto retained her seat. She was joined by Margaret Zziwa, Nusura Tiperu, Dan Kidega, Bernard Mulengani, Dora Byamukama and Mike Sebalu, all losers in the March parliamentary elections. This time round MPs did not have opportunity to vote in the House but rather political parties chose their representatives internally and forwarded the names to the Clerk.
Is it possible that Tandekwiireâ€™s mathematics convinced FDC to nominate their representatives? Probably not, since they are pushing ahead with he court case. And in case they get a third seat, will it go to Kanyomozi? Probably not, given that he, like Jacob Oulanyah, are perceived as being opportunistic â€” only going into a party to get elected â€” and given that other FDC leaders like Sulaiman Kiggundu and Salaamu Musumba were also interested and reportedly grumbling at the manner in which the internal elections were conducted.
Why FDC got only two EALA seats