The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu has tabled regulations that will restrict political party activities and propose unique methods for the election of party officials in light of the Covid19 pandemic.
The Political Parties and Organisations (Conduct of Meetings and Elections) Regulations 2020 seeks to “enable a political party or organisation to elect leaders and sponsor candidates for nomination for general elections without compromising the health and safety of its members or the public.”
It also seeks to provide a new legal regime to aid political parties to elect leaders and sponsor candidates for nomination for general elections within the limitations imposed by the Public Health Act and other restrictions to contain the spread of Covid19.
Regulation 5(2) proposes other arrangements for meetings of political parties to include virtual meetings, resolutions by circulation, phased elections and open ballot.
It also includes election by Electoral College and physical meeting of party officials as long as they conform to the Covid19 social distancing rules, an exception which only applies to a restricted number of party officials.
To aid the application of these interventions, Regulation 5(3) overrides political parties’ constitutions and empowers Executive Committees to employ a combination of these methods in arriving at candidates to present for the election of new party officials.
Holders of political party offices other than the Executive Committee of political parties will have their terms extended by six months at a time, should the Covid19 pandemic persist beyond the time prescribed.
The regulations define an Executive Committee as the governing body of political parties by whatever name called.
The Regulations, if passed, could see party candidates elected by selected party officials as opposed to universal suffrage to avoid the spread of Covid19.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga referred the Regulations, brought under the Political Parties and Organisations Act to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for further scrutiny within one week.
President Museveni has, according to Minister Kamuntu, assented to Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Act 2020, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Act 2020 and the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2020.
The President has, however, returned the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2020, with the contentious clause said to be the creation of district woman councillors for every town council or sub-county as opposed to the current arrangement where a councillor represents two or more sub-counties.