Judges want 10 changes in presidential elections

Published by Daily Monitor
On 28 August 2016 saa 01:01
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The Supreme Court has come out strongly to make 10 recommendations aimed at creating reforms that it hopes will guarantee free and fair presidential elections in 2021 and beyond.

The Supreme Court has come out strongly to make 10 recommendations aimed at creating reforms that it hopes will guarantee free and fair presidential elections in 2021 and beyond.

In order to see that these recommendations are this time round put into action, unlike in the previous two presidential elections, the same court directed the Attorney General (AG), who is the chief government legal adviser, to follow up these recommendations and report back to court within two years on the progress.

Government tasked
The move by the nine justices of the court, led by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, to press the government on the electoral reforms this time, followed the push by a group of Makerere lecturers for the same recommendations, arguing that the previous ones had been brushed aside.

The lecturers had joined Mr Amama Mbabazi’s petition as friends of court in which he was challenging President Museveni’s February 18 victory with the court giving its full and reasoned judgment on Friday.

“We note that most of the recommendations for reform made by this court in the previous presidential election petitions have remained largely unimplemented. It may well be that no authority was identified to follow up. We have further noted that the AG may object to withdrawal of proceedings. Therefore the AG is the authority that must be served with the recommendations of this court for necessary follow up.”

The full and reasoned judgment of the court was read out by Justice Jotham Tumwesigye on behalf of Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, who was out of the country.

Period to file petitions
Core to these recommendations was that the 10-day period within which to file a presidential election petition and also gather evidence to support it and the 30-days period within which the Supreme Court is to determine the same petition, is unrealistic.

To that effect, the justices recommended that the law should be amended to extend the filing and determination period to 60 days to enable the concerned parties and court to adequately prepare and present their case.

“We recommend that the period be reviewed and necessary amendments be made to the law to increase it to at least 60 days to give the parties and the court sufficient time to prepare, present, hear and determine the petition, while at the same time being mindful of the time within which the new president must be sworn in,” they recommended.

Role of public officials
The new recommendations of the court, if put into practice, will also see a law enacted to bar the involvement of public servants from meddling in elections.

In the March presidential election filed by Mr Mbabazi, one of the grounds that he raised before court to annul President Museveni’s victory was that public officers such as the executive directors of KCCA and Unra, Ms Jennifer Musisi and Ms Allen Kagina, respectively, had campaigned for President Museveni.

“The law should make it explicit that public servants are prohibited from involvement in political campaigns,” ruled the judges.

The highest court also recommended that there should be no more fundraising or giving out of donations by presidential candidates, including the president, during the presidential campaigns.

In the recent past presidential election petition, Mr Mbabazi had raised the bribery allegation against President Museveni when he alleged that the incumbent had bribed the electorate of West Nile with hand hoes.