There are three proposals at play. One is that, elections for members of parliament should be held differently from those of the president.
Secondly, the official campaigns for members of parliament be suspended until January and thirdly, the period for presidential campaigns should be scaled down from four months to now only two months!
On Tuesday last week, government tabled fresh electoral reforms. These touch on the electoral commission, presidential and parliament elections.
Our insiders have confirmed to us that the reforms were prompted by basically three reasons.
One was that the national EC headed by Badru Kiggundu made a ‘mistake’ when it opened up picking presidential candidacy forms to all toms, dicks and Harry.
This resulted into congestion of the ballot box paper yet the NRM party had planned to have not more than eight people.
So far, over 40 people picked forms hence stretching the resource envelop of the government in terms of preparing for facilitation of these people.
However, not all who picked forms will be nominated but those with capacity to stay in the race are reported to be not less than 6.
The worst alleged mistake by EC was to spoil the political magic of the president when it allowed many people some of whom have names that might threaten the winning strategy of the ruling party which uses Museveni’s first letter ‘Y’[Yoweri] as its vote magic.
Because candidates are arranged alphabetically on the ballot paper, Museveni had always been number last and therefore it became easier for illiterate voters to spot their candidate by telling them to tick number last.
With this massive number of aspirants, it means Museveni’s vote magic was reportedly tampered with by EC unless some are techinically kicked out or paid off to quit.
Therefore, according to sources, this required quick reforms in the EC Act so that the EC is allowed to do away with alphabetical arrangement of candidates so that it can decide the way it wants. Others wanted the EC to be empowered so that the incumbent is given priority and is put number one on the ballot paper.
But all these proposals wouldn’t be possible unless there was an amendment to the electoral commission Act!
Secondly, our insiders told us that the ruling party wants the electoral program of the EC be altered.
However, the polling dates according to our insiders have not been tampered with but only the period for campaigns is what should change.
As for legislators, members want nominations to be done some time in mid-December while official campaigns begin in January.
The reason is that members are financially exhausted having gone through primaries.
Secondly, their area of jurisdiction has also been reduced following creation of new constituencies leaving some members with at most four sub-counties while others have two or three.
Therefore, making members spend four months in a two-sub-county constituency makes them idle.
“Some of us cover the ‘whole’ constituency in just one day. You cannot give members four months to campaign. Instead, parliament should be recalled from recess and members do parliamentary business until January. We want nominations pushed and campaigns to begin next year for MPs,” our sources stated.
Already, this proposal which is being backed by both NRM and opposition MPs has been tabled before the justice and constitutional affairs minister Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire for onward submission to the EC.
Indeed, the EC recently pushed MPs’ nominations from the original dates to November but members want them pushed even further.
Other members want the law changed so that elections for president and that of parliamentarians take effect on different dates.
Most members think that by holding elections differently, this would enable some of them who are weak on the ground to galvanize support among voters after their presidential candidate has won elections.
Our sources told us that behind the reforms, is a move to have the period for presidential campaigns lowered from the original four months to now one or two months.
Currently, the law requires that the presidential candidate must cover at least one district per day.
The law according to insiders in NRM was formed at the time when the country had a few districts [about 80] making it easier for candidates but now, it has almost 140 districts.
“If we go by the current provisions of the law, it means that the presidential campaigns will take about five months,” the sources explained.
This therefore according to sources gave birth to a proposal to have the presidential elections Act amended so that candidates can cover only 75 districts bringing the period to merely two months instead of five!
The NRM as party according to insiders plotted this proposal to achieve two things:
One was that; by restricting candidates to only a half of the population [read 75 districts/country], it would give president Museveni an additional advantage over his opponents especially Amama Mbabazi who is not well known by all voters unlike Gen. Museveni whose trademark Hat is known to most Ugandans since he has been standing.
In fact, this is the reason Mbabazi meetings were also cut short and the EC kept postponing dates for receipt of presidential nomination forms.
“Some people think Mbabazi is a woman. They don’t know him. If we put the campaign period at two months, it means candidates will not cover all districts. This will work for our candidate [Museveni] because he is widely known. In that way, voters will get confused and spoil votes for Mbabazi whom they don’t know,” sources explained.
In the mean time, Mbabazi will have to wait to carry out his ‘consultative meetings’ until he formally gets nominated by the EC.
Our sources told us that the ruling party wants the period reduced and therefore even nominations pushed to a later date.
This will make Mbabazi redundant without carrying out any political activity to market his bid.
In case he tries to force his way, the security forces will step in to demand him to wait for official nomination by the EC yet the campaign period is going to be little in case the reforms are passed this week on Wednesday.
Our insiders added that currently, the ruling party is at what sources called a ‘standstill’. Everything on its desk is not moving until the party chairman dictates on the next course of action.
To make matters worse, the party secretariat is reported to be at war pitying the NRM EC chairman Tanga Odoi and SG Kasule Lumumba. In fact, our insiders assured us that it is because of their fights that the NRM primaries even failed to take off on Friday as per the plan because the secretariat has concentrated more on internal bickering than producing the NRM register.
“We are right now at a standstill. We have no register yet we need these primaries to get out of our way. The SG and EC chairman are just fighting. That is why we have to always wait for the chairman [whose is not around] to give us what to do! This is the reason primaries have been pushed,” sources explained.
Our sources stated that already, some members have put the secretariat and NRM EC at notice suggesting that in case this confusion continues, members were going to defect to ‘Go Forward’ camp.
This case was made clear by one of the MPs from northern region during the last NRM caucus meeting.
“You people of the secretariat if you continue delaying the primaries, you must know that a big number of members are not willing to accept unnecessary losses. There is someone independent [read Mbabazi] who is waiting for all independents,” sources quoted the MP as telling the caucus.
We have been told that the primaries for MPs are likely to take place on October 11, two weeks after the original date of September 25.