Ugandan youth activists want electoral college system abolished

Uganda police man-handling a woman in the just concluded youth members of parliament polls. The police has been accused of candidate and voter harassment, intimidation and illegal arrest.

Uganda police man-handling a woman in the just concluded youth members of parliament polls. The police has been accused of candidate and voter harassment, intimidation and illegal arrest.

Civil society groups in Uganda want the government to consider conducting a national review of the special interest groups’ representation in Parliament to evaluate the need for their continued representation and the election system.

Youth activists say voting youth representatives through electoral colleges has been riddled with massive irregularities, citing last month’s chaotic regional Youth Members of Parliament elections that were marred by widespread voter bribery, intimidation of voters and candidates as well as the state inspired violence . They also say that there was inclusion of non-delegates into the Electoral College system and failure by the electoral body to display the voter register which affected the validity of the voting exercise.

“We want to continue doing a round of consultations among young people including those that have been elected in parliament on whether there is need for special interest representation in parliament through the Electoral College system or not. We want that process to be informed by the broader youth fraternity,” Said Ronald Otim, the Programme Manager, Uganda Youth Network, an umbrella organization of youth organizations.

He adds that voting youth representatives to parliament through adult suffrage instead of the Electoral College system will encourage broader participation of youth in general.

Voting for regional youth MP Representatives for Western, Northern and Central regions turned chaotic last month as fights over money, missing names on the voter register and delays dominated the exercise.

During elections for the Northern region Youth MP in Gulu District, delegates who constitute an electoral college that elects the lawmakers from Lango and Karamoja sub-regions, protested transport and accommodation allowances while in Central region, tempers flared as delegates and Electoral Commission officials were involved in verbal altercations over the same.
In Kabarole District, election for the Youth MP for Western Uganda was dominated by clashes between supporters of the eventual winner Mwine Mpaka and the runners-up Amanya Tumukunde forcing police and the army to fire teargas and live bullets to disperse the rowdy crowd that contested the declaration of the former as the winner of the race.

The contest for Eastern Region was postponed pending the disposal of a petition filed by a Mbale Youth voter Mr Issa Mafabi, at the High Court in Kampala, accusing the Electoral Commission of omitting his name on the voter’s register , a decision that disenfranchised him of his right to vote. His name does not appear on both the national and the youth register.
The civil society groups are also saying that the exorbitant nomination fees for potential youth candidates coupled with the high campaign costs affect young people’s participation in the electoral process.

“The Parliament of Uganda should consider constitutional amendments to bring down nomination fees for aspiring candidates. We are pursuing a public interest litigation as civil society organizations together with youth from political parties under their umbrella body Inter Party Youth Platform and our challenge is with the increase of nomination fees from 200,000 to 3 million shillings,” Isabell Akitengi, a programme Officer at Uganda Youth Network said.

“The amount is too high considering the unemployment rate in the country especially among young people but also the adhoc way in which the decision was taken is also an issue of concern. Our suggestion is to go back to the original amount or have a negotiated rate that we can agree on,” She added.

Akitengi added that all past youth MP elections have had challenges but the just concluded polls had the most glaring ones, which calls for a review of the process of electing youth MPs to avoid undermining and breaking the electoral laws.