National consultation. Following countrywide consultations on electoral reforms, delegates last week met in Kampala and agreed on resolutions that will be presented to the Speaker of Parliament. Below is the full report.
Having considered electoral reform proposals by the coordinating team for the free and fair elections campaign, the Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy, the Interparty Political Organisations for Dialogue, the Electoral Commission (EC), the National Consultative Forum, the Cabinet and other concerned Ugandans.
Acknowledging also that more than 3,000 leaders participated in a series of consultations on free and fair elections held in the following regions: Tooro, Bukedi, Teso, Kigezi, Busoga, Sebei, Ankole, Bugisu, Buganda, Karamoja, Bunyoro, Acholi and West Nile solemnly agree and declare as follows:
I. New Electoral Commission
i. A new independent and impartial electoral commission must be established.
The selection of commissioners and staff must follow a process of open application, public hearings and scrutiny conducted by the Judicial Service Commission. The successful applicants should be finally vetted by Parliament and upon approval be submitted to the President for appointment.
ii. Commissioners should serve for a guaranteed one, non-renewable seven years term.
iii. A commissioner may only be removed from office in exceptional circumstances for gross misconduct or incompetence. Such removal process should follow the same criteria and procedure applied in the removal of a High Court judge.
iv. The new Electoral Commission must carry out a complete overhaul and review of existing staff of the commission, and returning and presiding officers.
v. The selection of secretariat staff of the commission at all levels, and returning and presiding officers and polling assistants, must go through open selection and publically aertised recruitment process.
II. Ensuring integrity of the voting process
i. A new, clean and verifiable register of voters, which should include eligible Ugandans in the diaspora, must be compiled by the new Electoral Commission. This should be done in a manner which is completely transparent and accurate it should ensure the rights of citizens to register to vote, while preventing unlawful or fraudulent registration or removal of persons from the voters roll.
ii. The new register should be comprehensive, inclusive, and up-to-date compiled through a transparent process with full participation of stakeholders, particularly political parties, civil society, and the public.
iii. The new register must be accessible to all as a public document that can be inspected at no-cost. It must be displayed at selected public places and all Electoral Commission offices. Before the new register is finalised, two months period of public display must be allowed for the public, political parties, and candidates to verify, object to or seek to add eligible names. The final, clean and verified register must be ready six months before elections day.
iv. A comprehensive and continuing civic and voter education programme should be developed and funded from the national Budget.
v. The voting for LCIII, LCV, Parliament and President should be conducted on one day to avoid influence peddling and patronage in the electoral process.
III. Role of security forces and militia
i. The military should have no involvement whatsoever in the electoral process and should remain focused on its constitutional duty of securing our borders and defending our sovereignty. Ensuring law and order during elections should be exclusively the responsibility of the regular police, under the direction and supervision of the Electoral Commission.
ii. The role of the police should be strictly to act impartially to ensure public order. Its role during the campaigns and in all other aspects of the electoral process should be monitored by the Electoral Commission.
iii. The military and police should vote in regular polling stations they must not bear arms or wear uniforms in this process.
iv. The movement and deployment of the army should be restricted and monitored in the period before, during and after the elections, under arrangements agreed upon at the national consultation.
v. The formation and deployment of any militia (informal armed groups constituted outside the laws) is absolutely illegal this prohibition must be strictly enforced in practice.
vi. Codes of conduct for security forces during the campaigns and elections should be agreed to by stakeholders. The agreed codes of conduct should then be independently and strictly monitored by the Electoral Commission.
vii. The Chief of Defence Forces must be in charge of all men and women in service.
viii. The President should relinquish tactical command and control of the armed forces to the joint chiefs, and must not serve as chairman of UPDF High Command. Membership in UPDF High Command should not be personal to holder.
ix. There should be an independent security service commission to determine discipline, promotions, commissions as well as handle complaints and all other matters related to the army, police, intelligence agencies and all other security agencies.
IV. Integrity of the campaign process
i. A mechanism must be established to monitor and prevent raids for funds from the central bank, ministries, and international assistance accounts, in the period before and during elections campaign.
ii. An office of comptroller of Budget should be established to keep track of money trails and prevent diversion of funds from treasury, ministries, etc, for partisan political purposes and activities.
iii. Restrictions should be placed on resort to supplementary appropriations in the period of two financial years preceding general elections.
iv. In the period of two financial years preceding general elections, classified appropriations and appropriations for the presidency and State House should be restricted and strictly monitored, including funds that facilitate presidential patronage.
v. Public servants should resign their positions at least 6 months before their being nominated to contest in an election.
vi. All public officials nominated to contest an election should hand over public assets in their possession before they proceed for campaign.
vii. The Constitution should prohibit any party that is the ruling party from using State resources such as State House to conduct business that is purely for the political party.
V. Addressing the system of patronage
i. Independent commissions, agencies, regulatory bodies and independent offices should have separate selection, approval and appointment processes.
These bodies include: all service commissions, Electoral Commission, Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Local Government Finance Commission, Land Commission, Human Rights Commission, Uganda Revenue Authority, Bank of Uganda board, National Social security Fund board, and National Environment Management Authority. They must have security of tenure that fully guards against capricious actions by the appointing authorities.
ii. An independent body should be vested with the power and responsibility to aertise, interview, conduct public hearings with regard to appointment of commissioners for constitutional bodies.
iii. The role of Parliament should be restricted to final vetting of the selected persons and the power of a President should be restricted to issuing the instruments of appointment for persons who have gone through this appointment process.
iv. Creation of any political offices not provided for in Constitution, by the President, should be approved by Parliament.
v. No new political offices (under iv above) shall be created in the last year of the term of President.
vi. Any presidential donation above 500 currency units shall require the prior approval of a relevant parliamentary committee.
vii. The annual Budget for presidential donations shall not exceed 0.5 per cent of the recurrent budget for State House.
viii. Current ‘regional’ ministries and the so-called ministry for ‘mobilisation’ should be abolished. Ministries should be organised as specialised fields (departments) for providing defined public service.
ix. An independent salaries and remuneration board should be established and vested with powers to determine the salaries of public servants including political leaders such as President, ministers, MPs and local government political leaders.
x. Cabinet ministers should not be Members of Parliament and in case an MP is appointed to Cabinet, such MP should resign he or her seat before taking over the Cabinet position.
VII. Demarcation of electoral boundaries
i. For purposes of the next general elections, all administrative units, i.e. districts, counties, and sub-counties, should be frozen at the level of the 2011 elections.
ii. The responsibility for creating new electoral constituencies should only be exercised by the Electoral Commission, applying current criteria under the law.
iii. In demarcating constituencies, the Electoral Commission should judiciously take into account population size, geographical size, number of voters, financial implications and the management of the electoral exercise.
iv. The law should not tie electoral constituencies to administrative units such as districts or municipalities.
v. The size of Parliament should be reduced in keeping with the modest resources of the State.
VIII. Freedoms to organise and assemble
i. The Public Order Management Act must be repealed.
ii. The Police Amendment Act (2006) must be amended and brought into full conformity with the Bill of Rights under Chapter 4 of the Constitution.
iii. An independent police oversight body should be constituted by the National Consultation to monitor the role of the police in the electoral process.
iv. Police operating procedures, for ensuring public order in the context of campaigns and throughout the electoral process, should be transparent and made public.
v. The guidelines for public order management prepared by the Uganda Human Rights Commission in 2007 should be operationalised.
vii. The Electoral Commission should assume oversight role over the media during elections period ensuring that all competing parties have equal access to the media.
viii. There should be penalties for media houses that fail to comply with the constitutional requirement for equal, fair and balanced coverage.
ix. The licensing regime should be used to secure compliance.
IX. Selection of presiding officers
i. The selection of presiding officers and polling assistants should be approved by political parties.
ii. Their selections should be transparent and based on merit and designated criteria.
iii. In order to qualify for selection, a person must not be or have been:
-An executive or member of a political party’s NEC or secretariat
-Run for elective political office on political party ticket in the last five years
-Convicted of electoral crime or serious misconduct or crime involving moral turpitude
-An RDC, DISO, GISO, a member of the security services or militia, or an appointee charged with partisan political responsibility or leader of a party in the last five years.
X. Processing of electoral materials
The processing and procurement of electoral materials, including design, printing and distribution of all materials should, at all levels and stages, ensure the participation, scrutiny and observation of key stakeholders, particularly political parties, civil society, election observers and the media.
XI. Ensuring integrity of tallying process
i. Polling station committees must be set up they should be composed of political parties, civil society, and the presidingreturning officers, to monitor the voting, counting, and tallying process and deal with complaints and disputes in the voting and tallying process, including the determination of valid, invalid, or spoilt ballots.
ii. Votes must be counted and tabulated accurately and transparently in the presence of stakeholders, i.e. political parties, civil society, observers, the media and the public.
iii. Votes must be counted and announced at polling stations in the presence of political parties, elections observers, civil society, and the public. Observers and representatives of political parties and candidates and the media must be given certified tabulation and tally sheets.
iv. Media must be permitted to report in real time, votes counted and winners announced at polling stations and certified by the presiding officerolling assistant. Representatives of political parties and candidates must be free to publicise certified results and tally sheets from polling stations.
v. All results, including presidential, parliamentary results and local council results, must be declared at the constituency level.
XII. A credible Judiciary to adjudicate election disputes
i. A credible and independent Judiciary should be realised which is able to competently and credibly adjudicate all electoral disputes as they arise.
Members of the Judiciary should be subjected to an open process of selection and appointment, including public scrutiny. They should be assured of non-interference in the exercise of their duties. The remuneration of judges should be such as to ensure their independence.
ii. Provisions in the law that require subjective evaluation by judges, on whether particular violations and electoral malpractices were ‘substantial’ and in ‘a manner’ that would alter the results of an election, entail the exercise of subjective rather than legal judgement. For this reason, Section 59 of the Presidential Elections Act, which contains this provision, should be amended accordingly.
XIII. Internal democracy of political parties
The Electoral Commission should closely monitor all political parties for compliance with constitutional and electoral law relating to internal democracy in those entities. This includes adherence to the requirements of holding regular delegates conferences.
XIV. Relationship between Citizens and their MPs and political parties
A member who has been expelled from the party based on the decisions of the party disciplinary structures with appropriate appellate procedures should not lose their seats in Parliament on that basis.
XV. Representation of special interest groups
i. Representation of special interest groups of women, youth and disabled should be maintained as a form of affirmative action
ii. The process of electing representatives of persons with disabilities should be reformed to make it more accountable to the constituents they are designated to represent. PWDs should use regional electoral colleges to elect one woman and one male. The Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) Act should be amended to cater for the elections of PWDs at the municipality level.
iii. All MPs representing special interest groups should be eligible for re-election only once-should serve only two terms of office weather in Parliament or local councils.
iv. The workers should be removed from special interest group representation since issues of workers can be represented by all MPs.
v. The army representatives should be removed from Parliament.
XVI. Funding for local governments and service delivery
i. Local governments should receive their funding directly from the consolidated fund as a percentage of the national Budget. This will enhance their autonomy and authority to deal with issues of service delivery. The money should not be conditional and the disbursements must be timely, to allow for utilisation of the same. Funds returned should be accounted for and not misused.
ii. The proposed share of the national Budget to be allocated to local governments should be in the range of 30-40 per cent based on serious negotiations and budget amendment by Parliament.
XVII. Tenure of office of president
The tenure of office of the President should be restored to two five-year terms and must be entrenched in the Constitution.
XVIII. Implementation of the compact
We adopt this compact as our solemn commitment to undertake the following actions to guarantee its implementation.
We will present a copy of this compact as our petition to our national Parliament for our MPs to enact these proposals into appropriate legislation within the next two months in order to create the necessary infrastructure for conducting a free and fair election.
A citizens task force comprised of the eminent persons group of conveners and the convening civil society organisations shall formally present this compact to the Speaker of Parliament and sure her support to the reform process.
The coordinating team and the conveners shall immediately convene and establish a mechanism for ensuring full implementation of this compact.
All citizens’ organisations and groups, and civic leaders commit to popularise the compact and mobilise all citizens across the country to support and aocate for the reform proposals contained in this compact.
All the political parties, civil society organisations and political leaders and religious leaders participating in this national consultation commit themselves to use their structures to mobilise support from the grassroots to support these reform proposals.
This compact will be translated into major local languages and disseminated widely to all citizens to enable them own the reform proposals agreed at this national consultation.
All forms of lobbying, mobilisation and organisation shall be used to ensure that citizens demand for the full implementation of this compact.
For God and My Country
SOURCE: Daily Monitor