As the battle for speakership intensifies, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has set tight guidelines to regulate the campaigns of contenders, especially tomorrow when party MPs convene to vote flagbearers for speaker and deputy speaker positions.
The contest for the next speaker of Parliament puts former speaker Rebecca Kadaga against her former deputy, Jacob Oulanyah.
According to the NRM electoral commission boss, Dr Tanga Odoi, the polling exercise will start today (Sunday) at 10:00 am and end at 2:00 pm.
“The NRM electoral commission has the mandate to adjust this time depending on the prevailing circumstances,” he said, noting that each candidate shall nominate two agents from MPs for purposes of witnessing the polling process.
“A voters’ register shall be availed during voting to identify the rightful voters. Voting shall be by secret ballot, and voting by proxy is not allowed,” Odoi said, adding that each aspiring candidate shall be given reasonable time to campaign before voting commences.
“In case the first two candidates tie, the election shall be repeated. In case of any disagreement on any matter arising out of the electoral process, the returning officer’s decision shall be final,” Odoi said.
NRM CAUCUS MEETING
A statement issued by the NRM secretary general, Justine Kasule Lumumba, also indicated that the NRM parliamentary caucus will be convened at State House, Entebbe on Sunday.
Lumumba added that NRM MPs will not be allowed to travel in their private cars to Entebbe.
Phones or any electronic gadgets, Lumumba said, are prohibited.
“Transport for all will be provided at Kololo Airstrip. No private cars will be allowed to Entebbe. Fire-arms, phones and other electronic items are prohibited. Carry your national identity cards,” she said.
On Thursday, all NRM MPs were tested for COVID-19.
On Friday, the NRM electoral commission concluded the call for expression of interest for speaker and deputy speaker.
Odoi said he will compile the list of contenders and forward it to the party’s top organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), which convened Saturday at State House, Entebbe to vet candidates for speaker and deputy speaker.
According to sources, CEC members will start the vetting process with the deputy speakers and then sieve Oulanyah and Kadaga last.
CEC will then forward the selected candidates to the NRM parliamentary caucus to face party primaries under the supervision of the NRM electoral commission.
On Friday, Oulanyah handed in his letter expressing interest in the NRM ticket for speaker position.
“I have expressed interest. We now leave the process to CEC. I trust them, I respect them, and I know they give a fair outcome, ” Oulanyah, who was escorted by a sizeable number of MPs, including ministers, such as Bright Rwamirama, said.
Both Kadaga and Oulanyah have intensified lobbying for the speaker position, setting the ball rolling for one of the major showdowns within NRM, as MPs break into pro-Kadaga and pro-Oulanyah camps.
The pro-Oulanyah camp argues that five years ago, he was asked by CEC to wait for the outgoing speaker, Kadaga, to finish her ten-year tenure as the practice has been in the past, a move that the pro-Kadaga camp has vehemently protested, contending that such a political truce never happened.
The deputy speaker’s camp also anchored their argument on the fact that former speaker Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi served for ten years before he was appointed vice-president.
The Oulanyah camp wants CEC to prevail over the rising political temperatures, and recommend that President Yoweri Museveni, who is also the chairperson of NRM, appoints Kadaga as vice-president.
In previous interactions with journalists, Kadaga has rejected the vice-president job offer.
“Those who are proposing that I become the vice-president, let that position be given to others. There are many things we have achieved because of that chair (speaker),” Kadaga said on March 28, last year while soliciting votes from Members of the Busoga Parliamentary Caucus at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
“Being a vice-president, you deputise another person. Here, I head an arm of Government. That is the difference,” she added.
On Friday, Oulanyah told journalists that five years ago, CEC made a decision to the effect that he should leave Kadaga to complete her 10-year tenure as speaker.
Oulanyah said the party told him that: “You are still young; your time will come. Let the speaker Kadaga finish her term. And my time has now come.”
“I was not extremely comfortable, but I was bound, and I respected the decision of CEC,” he added.
So, how will CEC resolve the KadagaOulanyah political impasse? Insiders within NRM say it is a dicey and delicate political situation for the NRM top brass which, if not handled well, has potential for a complete fall-out.
“It seems the general consensus within CEC is that Oulanyah should be recommended as unopposed to the caucus. However, if you go with such as decision, where do you place Kadaga, who has publicly rejected all the offers, sticking to the speaker docket?
Secondly, how do you come up with a decision that will not leave the party divided? It is tricky, but we shall reach a consensus on Saturday,” a senior CEC member told this publication
“There is also a likelihood that CEC will leave the caucus to decide the matter through an election,” the source added, noting that unlike Oulanyah, who can easily accept the outcome of the caucus vote, if Kadaga loses, there a possibility that she will contest as an independent for speakership on May 24, when the whole House convenes to elect the speaker and deputy speaker.
By press time, only four MPs had expressed interest to run for deputy speaker on the NRM ticket. These are Robina Nabbanja (Kakumiro Woman MP), Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama Central), Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North) and Anita Among (Bukedea Woman MP).