Parliament has adopted the majority report and passed the political parties’ and organizations’ regulations on conducting elections and meetings.
The report by Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs sought to look into the new road map by the Electoral Commission EC, that sought to ban public rallies in favor of virtual/ scientific campaigns.
According to the head of the committee, Jacob Oboth who presented the majority report in parliament, Rule 2 of the Regulations requires that Regulations apply to a political party or organization that intends to conduct a meeting or elections during a period when public health restrictions exist in Uganda.
“However, whereas it is clear that the regulations are intended to provide for a mechanism of holding meetings and elections during the period when there exist health restrictions, this is not the only time when there might be challenges in holding meetings and elections in political parties and organizations,” Oboth said.
The Attorney General William Byaruhanga said that whatever is being done is to conform to the constitution which ensures that people of Uganda are protected.
“Article 25 makes sure that we protect the people of Uganda. COVID-19 is not a product of the government of Uganda, but an international pandemic.
What are the regulations?
The regulations empower a Political party or organizations in the conduct of its internal affairs, in addition to complying with articles 7l and 72 of the Constitution, adhere to the Public Health Act, and the Rules made thereunder for the control of infectious diseases.
Political parties and organizations to hold meetings or elections for members of its executive committee, members of its organs or sponsored candidates by any of the following means; virtual meetings; resolutions by circulation; phased elections; secret ballot; open ballot; lining up behind the candidate of choice; election by an electoral college comprising members of an organ of the political party or organization.
Election by an organ of a political party or organization, other than that designated by the constitution of the political party or organization, whose membership is of a number that can lawfully convene without contravening the provisions of the Public Health Act and the Rules made thereunder for the control of infectious diseases.
A political party to employ the method of election or meeting that allows the holding of the election or meeting without contravening the provisions of the Public Health Act and the Rules made thereunder for the control of infectious diseases.
The executive committee of a political party or organization can extend the term of office of elected members of organs of the political party organization, 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 thereunder for the control of infectious diseases.
However, the extension of the term of office of elected members of organs of the political party or organization for a period not exceeding six months from the date of lifting the restrictions or other measures imposed by the Public Health Act.
Political Parties oppose
The Democratic Party (DP)
The DP rejected the proposals in the regulations, especially under regulation 5 (2), which prescribes the means by which political parties and organizations may hold meetings/elections of their executive committee, members of their organs or sponsored candidates to include virtual meetings, resolutions by circulation and phased elections etc; arguing the parties have separate sets of Constitutional mandates that cannot be subjected to the regulations as laid by the Ministers.
According to Dp, their party constitution cannot be usurped by the regulations to determine, for example, the term of office of office bearers
The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) submitted that they are agreement with the regulations and believe that their internal processes should not be interfered with by the Minister of Justice.
The FDC noted that the regulations as it is, presupposes that political parties should plan and conclude all internal democratic processes leading to the selection of candidates by 7th July 2020 for local government positions and about a month later for parliamentary candidates to rhyme with the roadmap as released by the Electoral Commission, which is in total contradiction to the timelines the party constitution stipulates; adding that as FDC, they want a credible internal democratic process leading to the selection of political party flag bearers for the next general elections. They rejected the proposals made in the regulations
The National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRM-O) noted that the situation as presented Pandemic is very precarious, as it deals with matters of life which the government is supposed to protect.
Citing their consultation with medical experts, the NRM noted it is not yet safe to hold elections the conventional way and therefore if the regulations as presented by the Minister provides guidelines on how parties can proceed with their internal processes while observing the standard operating procedures, they are ready to embrace it and proceed with internal party activities in readiness to the national elections.
They intimated that the NRM is passionate about balancing the strategic interest of the country by considering the constitutional right of Ugandans to elect their leaders, the health risks involved in conducting elections in the current environment, including the measures the government has put in place to ensure Ugandan are safe; and the economic cost of holding an election amidst the COVID-l9 pandemic.
They opined that they see the regulations as a means to safeguard all these interests of the country and therefore support it fully.