No money no LC polls, EC tells government

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Kampala. The date for the Local Council (LC) elections remains a mystery after the Electoral Commission (EC) insisted they cannot set the schedule unless the government releases the required funds.
The EC said setting the LC election date will be dependent on the time the government releases the money.
The elections are estimated to cost at least Shs15.9 billion.
Addressing journalists at his maiden media briefing at EC headquarters in Kampala yesterday, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, said the EC had formally requested government to release the funds for the LC election exercise.

“There is no delay in developing the necessary guidelines. We are doing what is reasonably possible in the necessary circumstance pending release of funds by government. By the time the funds are released, we will have moved,” said Justice Byabakama, who was flanked by commissioners and senior EC officials.
Last week, EC wrote to the ministry of Finance seeking funds for the LC polls. There are sharp differences in opinion between Finance ministry and EC officials over the amount of money required to hold the LC elections in the country’s 57, 842 villages and 7,431 parishes.

Whereas the EC, the body responsible for organising elections, first budgeted Shs33 billion and revised the figure downwards to Shs15.9 billion following a hard bargain, Finance minister Matia Kasaija said he would provide Shs10b as Cabinet decided.
However, Parliament has approved the Shs15.9b for the polls.
In November last year, during the Lands, Housing and Urban Development Joint Sector Review workshop at the President’s Office, the Minister of State for Housing, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, stated: “The Cabinet and EC are all aware of the President’s directive to hold LC1 and LC2 elections in January next year [2017] and the budget is ready– about Shs 37 billion far below the one that was suggested to cater for secret ballot– about Shs550 billion.”

Justice minister Kahinda Otafiire too insisted the elections would take place in January this year with or without money for EC.
However, the elections did not take place in January and Parliament has since rescheduled the polls to take place “not later than March” this year.
“The responsibility, power and the authority to set polling dates lies with the EC. The commission has never, at any one time, declared that the date for the LC elections is this or that. We have never authorised or delegated any person, authority or office to speak on our behalf. When the EC is ready, it will come out and proclaim,” Justice Byabakama answered when asked by journalists about the EC resolution on the elections yesterday.
The last LC 1 and 2 elections were held in 2001 before the country reverted from the Movement’s one-party political system to the multiparty system in 2005.

Attempts to hold fresh LC elections in 2006 were thwarted by the Constitutional Court ruling on the petition by then member of the Opposition FDC party Ruranga Rubaramira who challenged the legality of the existing Local Councils elected under the one-party Movement system, a year after the country had reverted to the multiparty system.
Following the government’s decision to conduct the LC1 and 2 elections by voters lining up behind candidates, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, a broad coalition of civil society organisations, said they will conduct four public consultations.

Guidelines. The EC has released final guidelines that will be followed by all stakeholders during the Aruu North County Parliamentary by-election.
Voting. Voting will take place on April 6 between 7am and 4pm. Before the exercise, EC will update and display Voters Register, nominate candidates (March 9 to 10) and hold a stakeholders meeting on February 24, among other activities. The EC has banned fundraisings in the constituency until after the polls to “allow level-ground for all candidates.

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