Civil Society Activists through their umbrella body, the Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) have proposed a ban on political candidates seeking funds from anonymous sources.
The activists made the call today while appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to present their views on the electoral reforms tabled by Attorney General, William Byaruhanga in July 2019.
As part of the Executive’s response to recommendations made by the Supreme Court in the presidential election petition filed by former Premier, Amama Mbabazi, Byaruhanga tabled a number of bills geared towards making electoral reforms.
The Bills tabled by Byaruhanga included; The Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Political Parties and Organisation (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill and the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Government is seeking to amend section 22 of Presidential Elections Act to indicate, “A candidate shall declare to the commission, within fourteen days after nomination day, the source of funds for financing his or her election.”
Government is further proposing that a candidate or candidate’s agent shall not obtain, solicit or receive any financial or other assistance from any foreign Government, institution, body or person which or who has demonstrated an intention to overthrow the lawfully established Government of Uganda, or to endanger the security of Uganda; obtain, solicit or receive any financial or other assistance from an organisation which has been declared a terrorist organisation under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2002.
Sarah Birete, who submitted on behalf of CCEDU argued that although the proposal is progressive, it should be made more explicit, with candidates required to submit drafts of their campaign expenditure and requirements to file returns at end of campaigns.
“The proposal should also prevent funding from anonymous sources, the law shouldn’t entertain anonymous sources of campaign financing and anonymous source is where the identity of source of donor isn’t ascertainable,” Sarah said.
The activists proposed to have candidates who contravene this section fined Shs600,000 or face three years imprisonment.
However, MPs protested the proposal, described the move as impractical
Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) wondered how this proposed provision would protect donors holding sensitive positions.
“There are people who work in public offices who give us money, how does your proposal protect such scenarios?” he said.
In the Presidential Elections Amendment Act, Government is proposing, ‘A person is eligible to stand for election as an independent if that person is not a member of a registered political party or organisation having ceased to be a member of a political party or organisation twelve months before nomination day; or having never been registered as a member of a political party or organisation.
Government is further proposing, ‘An independent candidate shall be taken to have ceased to be a member of a political party or organisation under subsection (1) (a), if that person has complied with the constitution, rules and regulations of the political party or organisation to which he or she belonged, that relate to cessation of membership of that political party or organisation and was discharged by the political party or organisation.”
However, the activists rejected the proposals noting that they violate five articles of the constitutions saying, “We think this proposal is regressive and can’t stand the taste. It is duty of Parliament to enact laws that are in line of the constitution.”
Although the activists welcomed the proposal to restrict campaign time to run from 7am to 6pm, they called for definition of campaign time, citing incidences where Police has roughed up opposition candidates because of their different interpretation of campaign time.
The proposal to waive distribution of election material from the current 48 hours was rejected by the activists, describing the proposal as regressive noting that any time before polling time can mean three months and this provision if lifted would be subject to manipulation, duplication.
“It creates an absurdity in the management this proposal should be rejected because it has operated well, and in all court petitions actors haven’t found any problem. This proposal should be rejected,” said Birete.
A proposal to amend the Electoral Commission Act to extend the time from which a voter can’t have their lost voters’ cards replaced from the current seven days to 30 days before polling day wasn’t supported, with activists warning Parliament against making laws that would disfranchise voters arguing that the proposed time is so long and anybody can lose their voters card and that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to take away their sovereign right to vote.
CCEDU also wants all candidates including the President found guilty of giving out donations during campaign time banned.
Bireete welcomed the proposal in the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill 2019 that seeks to ban giving out of donations including the president but argued that the penalties should be more stringent in order to sanitise Uganda’s democratic process.
“We suggest penalty should be added any person who contravenes the above section shall be disqualified during the election process,” she said.
The activists also proposed to have any person who is found to have participated in election malpractice not be eligible to stand in fresh elections.