New Electoral Reforms to limit Independent candidates on the amount of money to use During Campaigns

Attorney General William Byaruhanga attending a plenary session of Parliament recently

POLICE officers and members of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) will be allowed to vote for their preferred candidate’s five days ahead of the official polling date, according to the proposed amendment Bills intended to reform the existing electoral laws.

The proposal to allow security personnel, including the Police and army officers to vote for presidential and parliamentary candidates, is contained in the Electoral Commission Amendment Bill, 2019.

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, Thursday tabled before Parliament four Bills intended to reform the electoral laws that, if passed in the current form, will also have an adverse impact on the participation of presidential hopefuls that intend to contest as independent candidates.

The proposed amendments will, among others, prohibit independent presidential candidates from forming alliances with any registered political party, the use of electrical devices such as cameras and phones will not be allowed within the precincts of polling stations while the Electoral Commission will be required to gazette restricted voting areas.

Political parties, on the other hand, are not expected to have any links to pressure groups whereas for a party member to stand as an independent, they must have forfeited their membership at least one year to the polling date, which means that politicians who contest in party primaries and lose might not have another chance to contest as independents.

Besides declaring their source of funding and restriction on how much money independents can get from foreign sources, those that might wish to contest as independents in the proposed laws require that political parties consent to a member leaving the party with the intention to run as an independent.

Declaration of both presidential and parliamentary polling results shall be done in the presence of only five polling agents for each of the candidates, according to the proposed laws.

Byaruhanga tabled the said Bills for the first reading before Speaker Rebecca Kadaga referred them to the committee on legal and parliamentary affairs for further scrutiny.

He said: “These Bills are so many and the government is committed to amending the electoral laws as you will be seeing. There are different proposals but the main purpose is for them to be debated by you.”

Although in practice Parliament documents, including proposed Bills are shared with the lawmakers for prior comprehension before they are either tabled or read during plenary sessions, this was not the case on Thursday.