Government Backtracks On Electoral Reforms Timeline As Cabinet Meets Again Top story

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In short
On March 2, the Attorney General Fred Ruhindi told journalists that discussions on electoral reforms are in the final stages and that the Bills would be tabled within a fortnight. That deadline has since passed with no reforms forthcoming from government.

The government today changed positions on a March 2 promise it made to table electoral reforms within a "maximum of two weeks"-with the Prime Minister now saying it would be "erroneous to make false deadlines".

On March 2, the Attorney General Fred Ruhindi told journalists that discussions on electoral reforms are in the final stages and that the Bills would be tabled within a fortnight. That deadline has since passed with no reforms forthcoming from government.

Ruhindi was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Earlier on February 25,  Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda had blamed the failure to table the reforms on  the absence of  line ministers Kahinda Otafiire[Justice and Constitutional Affairs] and Peter Nyombi[ex Attorney General]-arguing that the laws would not be tabled without input from the duo.

But in a telephone interview with the Uganda Radio Network yesterday, Rugunda revealed that a special Cabinet meeting that discussed the electoral reforms last week Friday; did not definitively dispose of the highly anticipated legislations with another special sitting convening today to discuss the same matter.

"Do not push people to make mistakes. Our main point is to consider and discuss the reforms as soon as possible. It would be erroneous to push people to start making false deadlines. If I give a deadline and it is not fulfilled, you will say Rugunda is a liar. Government is as concerned as all Ugandans about the need to have a credible electoral system," said Rugunda.

"Do not fall in the trap of seeing others as roadblocks. We thought one session would be enough but it was not. For Cabinet to meet on Friday, it shows the importance and urgency attached to the matter," Rugunda added.

But though the Premier could not commit to a clear time frame, the Leader of Opposition Wafula Oguttu re-echoed fears by the Opposition and civil society activists that the government is dragging its feet in order to table the critical laws at the last minute and pass weak legislations that will not ensure free elections next year.

 "They want to bring them late and allow only those reforms that that will not ensure a level playing ground for free and fair elections so that they [NRM] win even when they are weak. The good reforms will not be brought," said Oguttu.

The Opposition and Civil Society members last year gave government a list of proposals in writing. The group is now preparing a Bill but says they are not sure whether the Speaker will allow them to table it given that  government says it is bringing a Bill on electoral reforms.

However with the House schedule to break off for an Easter break next week, the government is running out of time.

Key among the reforms is a demand for the Electoral Commission to be disbanded, a new national voters' register compiled and the role of security agencies in the electoral process revised.

The delay in finalising with the reforms has forced the Electoral Commission to put on hold the Road Map to 2016 with activities scheduled for March like the capture and return of the voters' register and gazzetting and publishing polling stations yet to be handled