Uganda’s Leader of the Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga, has advised MPs from Trinidad and Tobago to exercise caution when writing laws on campaign financing.
Addressing the MPs who are scrutinising The Representation of the People [Amendment] [No.2] Bill 2020, Mpuuga advised them to draft a law that establishes an independent entity to handle political party financing.
“In setting up a political party’s public funding mechanism, the legal drafters must think very carefully about the choice of the institution or authority given for administration. It should not be like our Electoral Commission which is grossly partisan,” Mpuuga told them via a Zoom link.
His address to the MPs of the dual island Caribbean nation is part of the peer-to-peer exchange programme supported by the International Republic Institute (IRI), an organisation funded under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Besides providing for a legal framework for campaign financing, money laundering and corruption, the draft law also seeks to expand the functions of Trinidad and Tobago’s Elections and Boundaries Commission.
Such a body, Mpuuga said, needs to act without undue influence from the government.
“The reliance on a partisan appointed electoral commission to be the administrator of the political parties and organisations’ public funding [in Uganda] failed the neutrality test,” Mpuuga said.
He criticised the 2008 amendments to Uganda’s Political Parties and Organisations Act, 2005, specifically sections 9 and 12 that he said were intended to limit the funding of opposition parties from private and foreign sources.
“It came as a halfhearted justification for the state to clamp down on foreign donations,” he said.
While the law provides for government funding for all registered political parties or organisations in respect of elections and their normal day to day activities, he argued, it is being used to suffocate political opposition.
“The NRM government introduced the amendment with a different ideological target from the other opposition parties. It has never been in the wish list for the ruling party to strengthen multiparty democracy in Uganda,” Mpuuga said.
“As of today, no opposition political party activity can take place outside the walls of the party headquarters or within the precincts of the Parliament building.”