Uganda’s legislators clash over electoral law reform

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Ugandan legislators have clashed after a cross-section of the country’s ruling party MPs demanded a halt to a debate on a constitutional amendment bill before parliament, saying there was little time to debate it.

The bill, already an arena of hostility between parties, is being discussed following vows by the opposition not to participate in the 2016 general elections until electoral laws are reviewed through a constitutional amendment.

The government should withdraw this bill

The clash came after ruling party MPs, John Simbwa and Eddie Kwezira, suggested the government withdraw the constitutional amendment bill because final preparations for the 2016 elections are already underway.

“The constitutional amendment bill is an important bill for the country.

“The government should withdraw this bill so that it is given more time and more stakeholders get involved,” Simbwa said, adding that the bill can be debated and passed by the next parliament.

Prior to the call for the bill’s withdrawal, chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio Committee, Stephen Tashobya had told parliament that his committee did not have enough time to look at all proposals from stakeholders.

“The legal committee received over 100 proposals and only looked at a few due to lack of time,” Tashobya said.

But opposition MPs, led by Ibrahim Semujju have rubbished the claims, saying there should be enough time for the constitutional amendments, while insisting that all is not lost.

Semujju argues that the elections can be postponed.

Thodore Sekikubo, another MP, has called for stay on the debate on the constitutional amendments because the matter on Constitutional Amendment bill in regards to amending Article 83 is before court and is, therefore, sub judice.

Some MPs went to court challenging Article 83 of the constitution, which blocks floor crossing by legislators.

Sekikubo said parliament should not debate on Article 83 as proposed by the parliamentary committee as the matter is before the constitutional Court.

But the Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana said discussion on the Constitutional Amendment bill, mainly Article 83, was not sub judice, adding that parliament has the power to make laws and its work cannot infringe on any matter before any court or authority.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah said he will give guidance on whether debating Article 83 is sub judice in regard to Constitutional Amendment bill next week.

Ugandan leader, Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 30 years and has shown interest in standing again in the next presidential election.

 

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