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Ugandan MPs reject digital campaign order ahead of 2021 poll

Friday July 03 2020
poll

From left: Ugandan Parliament’s Legal Committee chairperson Jacob Oboth-Oboth, Justice minister Ephraim Kamuntu, Electoral Commission chairperson Simon Byamukama and Attorney General William Byaruhanga after their meeting at Parliament. PHOTO | DAILY MONITOR

By DAILY MONITOR

Kampala. Ugandan Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee yesterday rejected the Electoral Commission’s (EC) decision banning open public rallies ahead of the 2021 General Elections.

The legislators raised concern that the ban would disadvantage candidates participating in the polls.

During a meeting attended by Justice minister Ephraim Kamuntu, Attorney General (AG) William Byaruhanga, and officials from EC, the MPs asked government to consider declaring a State of Emergency so that the polls, whose “credibility” is being threatened by spread of Covid-19, can be postponed.

The committee chaired by West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth was interacting with the minister, the AG and the EC officials led by their chairperson Simon Byabakama following a heated debate on Prof Kamuntu’s statement on the floor of the House last week.

Political temperatures have traded high since mid last month when the electoral body, in its revised roadmap to the 2021 General Election, announced that aspiring candidates will have to campaign ‘scientifically’ as a measure to fight the spread of Covid-19.

Digital campaigns will include a process of candidates for President, Parliament and Local Governments soliciting for support majorly through televisions and radio stations, as well as via social media platforms.

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The EC, in the same vein, banned the gathering of people at polling stations at the time of counting votes, arguing that this can only be done in the presence of the candidate’s agents.

MPs questioned the legality of the decision to ban political rallies arguing that this would abrogate some sections of the Presidential Elections Act, Parliamentary Elections Act and the Constitution.

“If it is about a pandemic, then it is supposed to be the Ministry of Health, not the EC. My Lord (referring to Justice Byabakama), if this election is discredited, nobody will remember the scientists you are basing on to ban rallies but it will be the EC, which you head,” Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa said.

Read more here.

Report by Misairi Thembo Kahungu

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