MPs grill AG on differing 2021 polling dates

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Attorney General, William Byaruhanga

MPs during plenary on Wednesday, 21 October 2020 tasked the Attorney General with why the announcement of the polling date for parliamentary and presidential aspirants differ.

“Presidential and Parliamentary elections are carried out on the same day but why is the Electoral Commission coming out to announce the polling dates for these activities on separate dates?” asked Hon. Joseph Ssewungu (DP, Kalungu County West).

The Electoral Commission (EC) officially announced the election dates for Members of Parliament on Thursday, 22 October 2020, ahead of the 2021 general elections.

The EC also officially announced the election dates for Presidential aspirants on by 5 November 2020, after the nomination of candidates to the position on 3 and 4 November 2020.

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According to the Attorney General, Hon. William Byaruhanga, the announcement of the polling dates after nomination of candidates vying for Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government positions, is in line with section 16(1)(a) of the Presidential Elections Act 2005, Section 18(1)(a) of the Parliamentary Elections Act 2005, and Section 107 of the Local Governments Act, Cap. 243 respectively.

“As Parliament was raising the concern here on the polling dates for the 2021 general elections yesterday, the Electoral Commission was inviting media houses to release the days on Thursday, 22 October 2020,” said Byaruhanga.

The matter on the election dates for the 2021 general elections was raised by Kira Municipality MP, Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, during a plenary sitting on Tuesday, 20 October 2020.

Kasilo County MP, Hon. Elijah Okupa tasked the EC to announce specific details of the election roadmap for candidates in the 2021 general elections, including the number of persons with whom candidates are allowed to consult during campaigns, in line with the standard operating procedures.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 did not prevent the Electoral Commission from telling candidates about the elections.

“Last time we talked about section 18 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, I told you that my interpretation is that is a date for putting the matter in the gazette,” Kadaga added.

Hon. Robert Centenary (FDC, Kasese Municipality) said guidelines issued to candidates for Parliamentary elections by the EC were only limited to guidelines for Covid-19 prevention.

“We should have a harmonised position on the number of people a candidate can meet during the campaigns, especially if the standard operating procedures have been met,” said Centenary.

The Attorney General told the House that the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Byabakama, was following the provisions of the law to the letter, reason as to why polling dates will be announced after the respective nominations.

“All other attendant issues like the number of persons a candidate should interact with and holding of rallies, will be addressed in the EC announcement. They will announce the actual roadmap to the election day,” said Byaruhanga.

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