The government today took the battle for next year’s election to the gates of the Opposition after officially tabling the highly anticipated electoral reforms bill excluding all proposals submitted by the Opposition-effectively setting the stage for a showdown with politicians who insist on either reforms or no elections.
At the heart of reforms that were first tabled by the Opposition in February 2014- and later drafted into a Citizen’s Compact, is a proposal to disband the Badru Kiggundu-led Electoral Commission with supporters of the proposal holding the electoral body guilty of forming the nexus that fixes results for President Museveni and other NRM elements.
Opposition politicians and civil society activists have used several high court rulings and the 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings on the disputed presidential elections as evidence that the Commisison cannot be trusted with holding an unbiased election.
But the government rejected the proposal and just suggested that a mere tribunal be appointed by Mr Museveni-the very man who selects the Electoral Commission-to look into complaints raised about members of the Commission.
Under the proposed amendments, the name of the Electoral Commission will be changed to the Independent Electoral Commission “in order to explicitly recognize the independence of the commission.”
The new law will however, give legroom to flip-flopping politicians as it will allow MPs to change political alliances twelve months before a general election.
Under the proposed amendments, the retirement age for Supreme and Court of Appeal court judges will be revised up from 70 to 75 years while High court judges will now retire 75 up from 65.
On Thursday, the battle will be on the floor of Parliament as the government tables the Bill for First Reading-to set into a motion a process that will see the legislation sent to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for scrutiny. Opposition MPs led by Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu (Shadow Attorney General) and Busiro East MP Medard Ssegona(Shadow Justice Ministice) are being lined up to lead the Opposition challenge of the Bill at committee level.