EC now wants powers non-compliant presidential candidates

The Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama has sought a provision giving them power to ban campaigns of any presidential candidate who flouts electoral laws and guidelines.

Byabakama was on Thursday appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that is currently collecting views on the proposed electoral reforms tabled by the Attorney General William Byaruhanga.

The electoral reforms were tabled through the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, the Political Parties and Organization (Amendment) Bill and the Local Governments (Amendment) Bill.

Byabakama proposed an amendment to the Presidential Elections Act to be given power to ban a candidate from campaigning for a given period for non-compliance with the campaign timelines.

In his amendments, Attorney General William Byaruhanga had proposed a candidate shall hold campaigns between seven o’clock in the forenoon and six o’clock in the afternoon.

Government proposed that a person who contravenes the provision commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 48 currency points approximately Shillings 960,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or both.

Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Sseggona questioned how EC intended to conclude on the penalty during the election period. He also sought clarification on how EC plans to prosecute the presidential candidates especially the incumbent who is protected under the Constitution.

In his response, Byabakama said that the 2-year imprisonment proposal and a fine not exceeding 48 currency points did not come from the EC.

He appreciated the difficulty of implementing the provision especially where the offender is the incumbent but insisted on EC being given powers to deal with the offender by for example banning him or her from conducting a number of campaigns.

His proposal further attracted criticism from Sseggona saying that there have been several complaints against President Yoweri Museveni in previous elections for faulting the election guidelines especially campaigning time and nothing has been done by the Electoral Commission.

Byabakama said that he had not presided over any general election but he had received information that the EC at some point cautioned the President.

The Secretary to the Commission Sam Rwakoojo recounted an incident in the 2016 general elections when President Museveni was stopped from campaigning past 6 o’clock in Ntungamo and he obliged.

But Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa insisted that it was practically impossible for EC to enforce provisions where an incumbent President is involved.

Byabakama told MPs that the Electoral Commission endeavours as much as possible to exercise its mandate by calling everyone to order during the election period.