MPs set rules for EALA

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PARLIAMENT. After a polarised debate in the House on Thursday, lawmakers resolved to scrap party consensus in the election of the country’s representatives to the regional parliament- the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala).
The House chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga also cleared special interest groups to contest for the nine slots given to Uganda in the regional parliament. This amendment is consistent with the dictates of the Equal Opportunity Commission.
“The Speaker shall ensure that the members elected under Rule 12 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure represent the various political parties represented in the House, shades of opinion, gender and other special interest groups in Uganda,” reads the amended provision.

Previously, the rules provided that the elections should be conducted after consultations and consensus by the political parties and other MPs. Some MPs, however, expressed concern that scrapping consensus and allowing interest groups to contest in the election of Eala representatives would disadvantage the Opposition and independents since NRM controls the majority in the House. The Government Chief Whip, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, told Saturday Monitor on Thursday that the scrapping of consensus gives breathing space to the ruling NRM with majority numbers in the House from court battles over Eala polls.

“All the power lays in the hands of the Speaker, there is no more need for consensus as has been the case… we are going to sit with the Speaker and see whether to maintain the status quo (on numbers) or not but putting into consideration, the interest groups,” Ms Nankabirwa said.
The status quo grants six out of the nine Eala slots to the ruling party, two to the Opposition and only one to Independents.
With the Independents coming as second to the NRM in the composition of the 10th Parliament, debate remains on whether the Opposition will stage a fight to retain their slots or relinquish to a single slot.
“I cannot be certain but I guess the Independents will not just sit and watch,” Ms Nankabirwa said.

Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba, explained that the decision was in respect to the 2012 ruling of the East African Court of Justice where Anita Among (Ind-Bukedea), then an Eala candidate for the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), challenged the aspect of “consensus” which was provided for after the election and held no relevance to aggrieved parties.
“We have virtually transplanted the Article (50) and the treaty into our rules to restate the fact that the members elected must represent the various political parties represented in the House, shades of opinion and interest groups in the country.”
However, Nuwagaba said to achieve the new resolution, there must be consensus prior to the elections given the current dynamics.

“This business of numerical strength shouldn’t be a major consideration because the ruling party has the majority but if it wants all Ugandans to adopt the spirit of EAC, then the business of winner takes it all should not apply,” he said.
The 10 Parliament has got four political parties, including the ruling National Resistance Movement, the Forum for Democratic Change, the Democratic Party and Uganda Peoples Congress as well as a sizeable number of Independents. There are four interest groups representing workers, women, youths, people with disabilities and the army.

Although for effective representation, the changes implied that each group would at least send one representative to the regional Assembly, the NRM MPs rejected the idea, saying that it would give a wrong reflection to the party with majority vote in the country.
“When we vote the Eala MPs, they represent Uganda…if you give only one representative to the NRM then you ignore the majority aspect of representation,” said Maurice Kibalya (NRM-Bugabula South).

The decision

Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba, explained that the decision was in respect to the 2012 ruling of the East African Court of Justice where Anita Among (Ind-Bukedea), then an Eala candidate for the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), challenged the aspect of “consensus” which was provided for after the election and held no relevance to aggrieved parties.

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