By Max Patrick Ocaido
Attorney General William Byaruhanga has sought for more two weeks to table the long awaited electoral laws reform bills.
The draft Bills constitute amendments arising out of the Supreme Court recommendations in Constitutional Petition No.1 of 2016, the European Union Election Observation Mission Report of the Uganda Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council Elections 18th February 2016, consequential amendments from the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2018, and proposed amendments submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs by the Electoral Commission.
Byaruhanga on Tuesday said on floor of Parliament that the draft Bills have been prepared and are pending submission to Cabinet for approval prior to being introduced in Parliament by end of May 2019 for debate and enactment.
The pending Bills include; the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill,2019 and the Local Governments (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
In January 2019, Byaruhanga provided MPs with an update on the ongoing electoral law reform process being undertaken by government and he was given up to April 30 to table the Bills that among others includes amending the Constitution.
Last Thursday, Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) pressurized government to table the reforms or else he brings them as an individual through a private member’s bill.
Following the General Elections of 2016, the Supreme Court, in the case of Amama Mbabazi vs Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and others, Election Petition No. I of 2016 recommended that there was need to amend, among other provisions, articles 104 (2), (3) and (7) of the Constitution in relation to presidential election petitions.
As a result, the recommendations of the Supreme Court were addressed in 2018 when Parliament enacted the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2018 that among others scrapped presidential age limit. Other amendments that was passed in the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2018 included; provision of the time frame within which to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government council elections; provided for eligibility requirements for a person to be elected as President or District Chairperson; increased the number of days within which to file and determine a presidential election petition and increased the number of days within which the Electoral Commission is required to hold a fresh election where a presidential election is annulled.
Attorney General attributed the delays in bringing the electoral reform bills to the recently concluded consolidated Constitutional Court appeal that challenged the constitutionality of the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2018 saying “it was critical in informing the final content and scope of the electoral law reform Bills.”
Before Attorney General’s two weeks extension was granted, MP Niwagaba insisted that he is allowed to present his private member’s motion on the same as government may not have captured his concerns especially in regards to amending the Constitution.