A plan to introduce legislation aimed at reducing Uganda’s parliament by almost half is causing a stir in the ruling party, as several lawmakers say the proposed law should be discussed and supported in order to improve governance improve.
Originally, the plan called for each district to be represented by two people – a man and a woman – a move that would result in the number of MPs growing from the current 556 – including members ex officio – down to 292 MPs representing 146 districts /p>
Naome Kabasharira last week reiterated her determination to introduce a private members’ bill, admitting it was an “unpopular change”, but by a “necessary” act that will curb the ever-expanding house that is so big a cost to taxpayers.
Other politicians, including the general secretary of the Nati National resistance movement, Richard Todwong, agreed that the issue of representation should be revisited, while lawmakers say there should be an amendment to either accommodate the number of voters per party constituency or a straight adoption of the proposed one Plan of two deputies per district.
Last month the Constitutional Court ruled that the Electoral Commission violated the constitution by creating new constituencies that do not meet the population quota, based on data from 2002 and 2014 Census. The court found that densely populated districts such as Kampala, Wakiso and Arua were underrepresented compared to smaller districts with multiple legislatures.
“The legislatures represent people, not areas, and weigh votes according to based on where citizens live is discriminatory,” said Judge Catherine Bamugemereire.
She added, that seats in parliament must be allocated on the basis of population and that the number of inhabitants in the legislative districts should be as equal as possible such seats are invalid.
Critics from the opposition strongholds of Kampala and Wakiso have long argued that the electoral commission is reluctant to create new constituencies in those districts for fear it will give more seats to the opposition and tilt the election scales against the ruling party.
Sources show the ruling party is “open to more ideas” but remains cautious, as for allowing the proposed margin of maneuver in the law, we must demonstrate its strength in Parliament.
Ms Kabasharira proposes to amend Article 78(1) of the Constitution, which states, among other things, that Parliament from directly elected members representing the constituencies and that there should be a female representative for each district.
The article also adds, that MPs should include the Vice-President and Ministers who, if not already elected Members of Parliament, are ex officio non-voting Members on any subject requiring a vote in Parliament.
The current 11th Parliament has 529 elected MPs and 27 ex officio members – by far the largest parliament in East Africa – having grown from 445 lawmakers in the 10th Parliament.
Ms Kabasharira argues that a huge parliament is a poses a burden on the taxpayer, but it does not result in better legislative participation or effective representation, and that two MPs per district is sufficient.
< p>Indeed, as legislator figures swell, African Leadership Institute (AFLI) audits, a Organization that monitors governance, show that there is no evidence of increased effectiveness in a large parliament.
The Study shows Parliament performed relatively well in its legislative role Passing 27 bills during the third session from July 2018 to June 30, 2019, only half of lawmakers participated in house debates and committee work.
“This means that the other half of Parliament is not involved in the legislative function. From our point of view, increasing numbers mean that participation in the legislative process will be even lower, and that means that voters are not effectively represented in this aspect of parliamentary work,” added Dr. Werikhe added.
The report also assessed legislators’ performance when working in committees, where they achieved one of the lowest percentile ratings, having referred only 12% of bills to committees within the required timeframe.
Under Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, a bill referred to committee should take 45 days, except for bills on loans, supplementary budgets and tax bills, which are sent in record time. However, it was noted that most bills in the 10th Ugandan Parliament remained in committee for up to three months.
With a population of 42.8 million, Uganda’s legislature is the bicameral parliament of Kenya, the region in the shadows largest economy with 416 members (394 seats in the National Assembly and 67 in the Senate). Tanzania has a 393-seat parliament.
Both Kenya and Tanzania have larger populations than Uganda.
Rwanda has a bicameral legislature with 80 deputies in the National Assembly and 26 members in the Senate, while Burundi has up to 121 directly elected and co-opted MPs in its National Assembly and between 43 in the Senate.
South Sudan’s Parliament currently has 170 seats in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and 50 in the Council of States.