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Ugandan opposition pushing for president term limit

Wednesday May 12 2010

By REUTERS

KAMPALA

Uganda's opposition will table a bill seeking to amend the constitution to reinstate presidential term limits, a move that would stop the incumbent leader from vying again if successful, an opposition member said.

The east African country, which recently discovered commercial oil deposits, is slated to hold elections next year and President Yoweri Museveni is expected to face a more formidable opponent backed by a unified opposition.

Erias Lukwago, the shadow attorney general and justice minister, told Reuters late on Tuesday the opposition was planning to table the bill as soon as the speaker would allow it to be slotted into parliament's Order Paper.

"The bill will mainly be seeking to restore the two-term limit on incumbency, reform of the electoral commission and removal of the army representatives from parliament," he said.

If passed it would prevent Museveni, who has already served for 24 years, from seeking re-election.

It would also compel the president to seek the opposition's opinion before appointing senior leaders of the electoral commission, a measure the opposition hopes will make the body more independent.

A two five-year presidential term limit was introduced in Uganda's constitution in 1995 to check leaders' inclinations to cling to power. President Museveni, however, argued the term limits were an obstacle for a popular leader.

In 2005, he successfully rallied members of his party to scrap the limits. Museveni is only ineligible to stand when he turns 75 years, the age limit for one to stand for presidency. He is thought to be around 66 years.

Although initially lauded as a visionary and transformative leader who revived Uganda's economy and restored political stability, Museveni has lately come under intense international censure for increasing authoritarian rule, corruption and holding on to power.

Lukwago said the opposition had consulted amongst Museveni's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and expected to marshal a significant bipartisan support for the bill. Nearly three thirds by the parliament is made up of NRM.

"Well, we know it will be difficult to pass this bill because the NRM always prefers to demonstrate their numbers in the House rather than serve the country's interests," he said.

"But what is important is that even if they defeat it we'll have made an effort in the right direction."