Parliament has passed the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, maintaining the nomination fees for candidates at sh3m amidst demands for it to be revised downwards.
The legal and parliamentary affairs committee chaired by MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth has been scrutinising the Bill and its findings were on Tuesday presented to the House by the vice-chairperson, Isala Veronica Eragu.
The object of the Bill was to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 to provide for the participation of independent candidates in elections as well as provide for restrictions on candidates' sources of funding.
The Bill was also meant to require the Electoral Commission to designate restricted areas experiencing epidemics, disasters or insecurity, operation areas for security personnel during elections and to provide for a special procedure for voting in restricted areas.
A controversial amendment moved by Nandala Mafabi (Budadiri West) calling for the revision of the fee to sh200,000, arguing that the sh3m would be too high for some candidates, was rejected by the House.
Attorney General William Byaruhanga and justice minister Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, said lowering the figure to sh200,000 might cause a major influx of candidates.
Parliament also refused to approve an amendment calling for posting of results of elections on ‘WhatsApp like' social media platforms administered by returning officers. MPs said some districts lack power and Internet access.
Parliament also rejected an amendment putting stringent conditions for independent MP aspirants, requiring them to have ceased to be a member of a political party or organization a year before nomination day.
The House, however, adopted an amendment that, a person can stand as an independent candidate if he or she is not a member of a registered political party or organisation, has ceased to be a member of a political party or organisation before nomination day, has had his or her membership of that party terminated before the nomination day or has never been registered as a member of a political party or organisation.
The nomination for about 444 MPs will take place in October while the voting will take place in January 2021. Eragu explained that they want candidates to use 90 days for campaigning while the Presidential candidates who cover wider areas will use 120 days for campaigns.
The current term of office for all elected leaders expires on May 12, 2021.
The Bill requires a candidate to declare to the commission, within 14 days after nomination day, the source of funds for financing his or her election.
The Bill bars public officers or the use of public resources for campaigns and if convicted can get a fine not exceeding sh10m or a jail term not exceeding five years or both.
The Bill restricts a candidate or a candidate's agent from getting money or other assistance from any foreign Government, terrorist organisation, institution, body or person which or who has demonstrated an intention to overthrow the lawfully established Government of Uganda or to endanger the security of Uganda.
The House also adopted an amendment stating that where a new district or constituency is created after the general elections, the elections for the district or constituency shall not be held until the next general elections, to fill the vacant elective positions.
Kyewalabye Majegere (Bunya East) proposed that while the results of the elections were being released, they should be posted on social media platforms, created by the returning officers. Majegere explained that the members of the group would be the candidates and their agents.
However, Aidah Nantaba (District Woman MP Kayunga) did not support the amendment, saying such groups could get fake results posted by opponents.
"It is dangerous to post-election results in WhatsApp groups. What about those that will send false declaration forms?" Nantaba said.
The Minister of State for ICT and National Guidance, Peter Ogwang, said the Government needs another loan to connect many districts that lack Internet access of the quality that can post data. Ogwang said districts such as Karamoja were getting connected to the Internet.
Additional reporting by John Odyek