East Africa

Opposition draft reforms to allow switch of parties

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A proposal to allow MPs switch parties during the last year of their term has been included in a raft of political reforms that the opposition intends to present to Parliament.

The proposal would require Parliament to agree to constitutional changes, including an amendment of Article 83(g) which presently provides that an MP who switches party while in office must vacate their seat.
At the close of the 8th Parliament, 77 MPs who switched allegiances were affected by a February 2011 Constitutional Court ruling affirming the constitutional position following a petition involving Mr Fox Odoi and then West Budama North MP William Oketcho.

Mr Oketcho, who lost his seat to Mr Odoi, and a number of his colleagues, had sought nomination for re-election on the ruling party ticket and yet they were in Parliament as independents or vice versa.
The opposition intends to resurrect a long-held view that members of Cabinet should not concurrently occupy parliamentary seats by seeking an amendment to Article 113(1) of the Constitution which allows the President to pick his ministers from among MPs.

They also want to re-write Article 82 so as to compel an MP who is elected as either Speaker or deputy Speaker to resign their seat upon being elected to the office. Shadow Attorney General Abdu Katuntu yesterday told the Daily Monitor he was involved in refining of the proposals, some of which had been tabled in the 8th Parliament. He said now is the time for a fresh debate on “crucial matters of democracy.”

“We want MPs to be free to switch political parties because we need to provide for a political transition for and we also believe that by the fourth year, an MP would have served the mandate for which they were elected,” Mr Katuntu said. He added that they want Article 60 amended to provide for the creation of an independent Electoral Commission under a multi-party setting.

If passed, the proposals would affect the Political Parties and Organisations Act and the Electoral Commissions Act. It is suggested that commissioners in the EC would be appointed by the Judicial Service Commission and serve one irrevocable seven-year term: “We want to borrow a leaf from our neighbour Kenya. We think we should get politicians out of the appointment of commissioners because they have got a self-direct interest.”

The opposition also want the appointment of the secretary to the EC to be done by a professional body for purposes of transparency and ending suspicions of political influence. “The body should be able to invite applications for those jobs and Ugandans who are able can apply.”

Other reforms include removing the army from the House, reducing the number of MPs in the House, blocking any person found to have committed an offence from standing for elective office for five years and also push for demarcation of constituencies according to population.

Government Spokesperson Mary Karooro Okurut, welcomed the proposals. “They are free to bring the reforms and we shall debate them but the army has a right to be in the House because it plays a positive role,” she said.

iimaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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