Opposition Party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) wants a panel to select officials to serve in the Electoral Commission (EC).
The party president, Patrick Amuriat Oboi who was flanked by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Betty Aol Ocan and his Advisor, Wafula Oguttu made the proposal while presenting their views on the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2019 before the committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on February 18, 2020.
Amuriat proposed an insertion immediately after article 60(A) to provide for a National Selection Panel.
According to the party’s proposal, the Selection Panel will comprise three commissioners from public service and two Supreme Court judges which shall invite applications and publish names of all applicants.
“The panel shall by notice in both print and electronic media circulate an expression of interest by suitable Ugandans to serve on the EC and other bodies as will be prescribed by this constitution,” Amuriat said.
He added that after conducting interviews, the panel will select three persons qualified to be appointed as chairperson and ten persons qualified to be appointed as members of the EC forwarded to the president for nomination of one person for appointment as a chairperson, one vice chairperson and five persons for appointment as members.
“The president is then required to forward the list to parliament for approval. Upon consideration and approval, parliament forwards the names to the president for appointment,” he said.
He said because of the importance of the EC and the attendant abuse of power, Ugandans think it wise to remove its appointment from the mainstream government and allocate it to an independent body that will not be under the general direction of formal government actors.
“The president who wields power around him directs what should be done in nearly every sector of the state on the basis of political convenience regardless of how unprofessional or what adverse effects such action would have,” he said.
Amuriat also proposes that the selection committee appoints the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Deputy with the approval of parliament.
“The Inspector General and Deputy Inspector General of Police may be removed from office by parliament,” he said.
Amuriat also proposed a change to the title of Leader of the Opposition to Leader of the Minority arguing that this will cater for situations where the party in government has less numerical strength compared to the party in opposition.
Mwenge County South MP Aston Kajara said that creating a selection panel contravenes Articles 98 and 99 of the constitution which give the president, executive authority as the head of state.
“This selection panel will usurp the powers of the head of state who is supposed to exercise that power ,” he said.
Wilfred Niwagaba questioned where the offices of the selection panel would be located.
“I am impressed with the idea of a selection panel but I will need to know whether it will not be looked as an independent entity of these particular commissions,” he said
Paul Mwiru (FDC, Jinja Municipality East) warned against giving parliament the mandate to remove the IGP and their Deputy from office, saying that parliament is a political institution and as such, decisions taken by MPs are politically influenced.
The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is a Private Member’s Bill, moved by Wilfred Niwagaba. The object of the Bill is to provide for the involvement of the Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of members of the EC, remove representation of army from parliament, and provide for Speaker’s panel. The Bill also seeks to restrict presidential term to two terms only and replace the office of Vice President with the office of Deputy President and provide for his or her election.