The Government has presented to Parliament a raft of new political parties and organisations regulations
The Government has presented to Parliament a raft of new political parties and organisations regulations that will empower the political party leaders, other than members, select the flagbearers for their respective parties in the 2021 polls.
According to the new regulations tabled before the House recently by justice minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, political parties have also been empowered to elect their flag-bearers through virtual meetings, resolutions by circulation, phased elections and secret ballot.
The regulations empower the political party executive committees to carry out a number of functions that ordinarily are performed by other organs under the party constitution.
The regulations render the decisions of the executive committees lawful, notwithstanding the fact that the party constitution provides otherwise. The regulations were tabled before the House for consideration and approval.
This move is in response to an argument raised against the decision by the Electoral Commission to issue new revised polls roadmap at a time political gatherings are prohibited under the COVID-19 control measures.
Rule 2, sub-rule (h) of the new rules provides for election by an organ of a political party or organisation, other than that designated by the constitution of the political party or organisation, whose membership is of a number that can lawfully convene without contravening the provisions of the Public Health Act and the rules made there under for the control of infectious diseases.
Rule 2 of the new regulations states that in accordance with section 10 of the Act, and notwithstanding any provision in the constitution of a political party or organisation, a political party may, where acting in accordance with its constitution would contravene the provisions of the Public Health Act and the rules made there under for the control of infectious diseases, hold a meeting or an election for members of its executive committee, members of its organs or sponsored candidates by means including, election by an electoral college comprising members of an organ of the political party or organisation.
Other elective means by the parties, according to the new rules, are open ballot, lining up behind the candidate of choice and any combination of the means or any other method of meeting or conducting an election approved by the Electoral Commission.
Term of office Under the new regulations, the political parties are also empowered to extend the term of office of elected members of organs of the political party or organisation.
"This shall be for a period not exceeding six months from the date of lifting the restrictions or other measures imposed by the Public Health Act and the rules made there under for the control of infectious diseases," Reads the new regulations.
According to rule 4 of the regulations, Subject to section l0 (3) of the Political Parties and Organisations Act, the executive committee of a political party or organisation may extend the term of office of elected members of organs of the political party or organisation other than the term of the executive committee, where it is not practical to hold elections for the membership of such organs as a result of the restrictions or other measures imposed by the Public Health Act or rules made there under for the control of infectious diseases.
According to the new regulations, an election held under these regulations shall be considered valid as if it had been held at a duly convened meeting, convention or conference organised by a political party or organisation under its political party constitution.
Applicability of the new rules Minister Kamumtu said the regulations will apply to a political party or organization that intends to conduct a meeting or elections during a period when public health restrictions are in existence.
The regulations are intended to safeguard the health of participants in activities organised by a political party or organisation.
They are also to enable a political party or organization to elect leaders and sponsor candidates for nomination for the general elections without compromising the health and safety of its members or the public.
The regulations are to enable the election and sponsorship of candidates for nomination for general elections within the limitations imposed by the Public Health Act and the Rules made there under, relating to public health restrictions or measures
However, reacting to the new regulations, Asumani Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality), the chairperson the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) council, said the new regulations contravene some aspects of the Constitution and the Political Parties and Organisations Act.
According to Basalirwa, the regulations are also against democratic principles that empower political party members to exercise their electoral rights.
"Rule five is against the democratic principles that the Constitution commands us to follow because they must promote inclusiveness and people participation. An attempt to exclude membership of a party from such processes can only be described as undemocratic and should be condemned," Basalirwa noted.
To study the regulations further, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has forwarded the new rules to Parliament's committee on legal and parliamentary affairs, which will then report back to the House for their consideration.