On the 4th day of March 2020, the Local Government Amendment Bill, 2019, was passed by Parliament into law. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Local Governments Act, Cap. 243 to provide for the creation of local government and the magistrate units at least two years before the due date for the next general elections. The Act also seeks to provide for demarcation of electoral areas and prescribe the manner of conducting campaigns. Also, it aims to bar persons not ordinarily resident in a local government area from contesting for councilor for that area. Furthermore, it sets procedures for commencement of polls at each polling station and to align the Local Governments Act with the provisions of the Constitution as amended by the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2018.
Highlights of the Act
- The Act provides that women councilors are to form one-third of the council and shall include the councilor representing older persons.
- Subject to Article 181 of the Constitution, the Act provides that the electoral commission shall demarcate local government electoral areas. This is to be done in such a manner that the number of inhabitants in the electoral area is approximate; – one hundred thousand for a city, thirty thousand for a district, fifteen thousand for a municipality, seven thousand for a municipal division, and twelve thousand for sub-county.
- The Act provides that an independent candidate shall be considered to have ceased to be a member of a political party or organization under subsection (1) (a). This is on condition that that person has complied with the organization to which he or she belonged. On this, compliance must be in line with rules relating to cessation of membership to that political party or organization and proper discharge by the political party organization of that person.
- The Act establishes that a candidate or candidate’s agent shall declare to the commission, within fourteen days after the date of nomination the source of funds for financing his or her election.
- The Act provides that where a registered political party or organization sponsors a candidate, the Electoral Commission shall, after nomination, allocate to the candidate, the symbol of his or her political party or organization.
- The law further provides that the Electoral Commission shall allocate to an independent candidate a symbol and color chosen by the candidate from among colors and symbols approved by the Electoral Commission for the election.
- The law provides that the candidate’s meetings and public campaigns are to be between 7 0’clock in the forenoon and 6’ o’clock in the afternoon.
Key Issues and analysis
There was a debate on the introduction of minimum academic qualifications for a political position at the local government level. Members of the house argued that leaders who are knowledgeable and educated are ideal to lead their people. To this, they proposed a minimum qualification of senior four and cautioned Parliament against supporting illiteracy in Uganda. Notwithstanding the arguments by members, Parliament rejected the proposal for councilors to have a minimum qualification of senior four after members claimed that many of them had already started campaigning, and it will not be right to start imposing qualifications on them.
The Local Government Amendment Act, 2020, is among the five electoral reform bills tabled by Attorney General as recommended in the 2016 presidential petition. The other acts include; the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Political Parties and Organization (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill.