KAMPALA- Seven out of 10 Members of Parliament are opposed to the lifting of the Presidential age limit from the Constitution, according to a new study. This is entailed in a new survey released by the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy on Uganda (CCEDU) on Parliamentary Attitudes to lifting Presidential age limit conducted between September 16 and October 7, where 185 were interviewed.
The MPs in the report also supported the restructuring of the Independent Electoral Commission (EC), arguing that this will guarantee the public free and fair elections in future. The proposal to restructure EC was high on the agenda of last year’s opposition’s proposed electoral reforms only to be rejected.
“In this survey we conducted via telephone, 73 per cent of MPs said they would not support a Constitutional amendment eliminating age limits for presidential candidates. We also found out that 77 per cent of our MPs want appointment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral Commission reviewed,” CCEDU chairperson, Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, said.
CCEDU sought answers on whether MPs would support the lifting of the presidential age limit and electoral reforms. There has been a raging debate sparked by NRM supporters to lift the presidential age limit to allow President Museveni rule for as long as he wants. According to the Constitution, one is not eligible to contest for presidency if they are above 75 years.
Argument Critics of the lifting of the presidential age limit argue that it is meant to keep President Museveni in power. The proposal to lift age limits if backed by Parliament means that President Museveni, who is 72, will not be eligible to stand for presidency in 2021 because he will be past the constitutional age limit. There have also been calls to reform the Independent EC that is perceived to be biased and in favour of the incumbent President who is the body’s appointing authority.
Commissioners are appointed by the President but are subject to Parliament’s endorsement. Speaking to journalists during the release of the survey, Sewanyana said CCEDU has also written to the President to consider the legislators’ views for the good of the country. National Democratic Institute (NDI), executive director Simon Osborn said NDI partnered with CCEDU to conduct the survey.
“The target population was 324 directly elected MPs (excluding government ministers and special interest group MPs). NDI randomly selected 196 MPs from a stratified sample of the target group by geographical region, MP mandate and political affiliation and interviewed 185 MPs (94 per cent),” Osborn said.
“The survey is representative of the target population at a 98.5 per cent confidence level with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 per cent. The survey took a maximum of 40 and minimum of 35 minutes per MP,” he explained. Before the February 2016 general elections, there were several calls for reforms to the Electoral Commission Act to have commissioners appointed by an independent body that represents all the political actors.