The race for Speaker of the 11th parliament has now taken a new twist after the ruling political party, National Resistance Movement (NRM) decided to involve the services of the party’s Electoral Commission to resolve the stalemate for good.
Since the conclusion of the January 14 parliamentary elections, there has been growing anxiety within the NRM on who is the best candidate for the speaker position with MPs – elect Jacob Oulanyah (Omoro County), Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga (Kamuli) and Juliet Kyinyamatama (Rakai) registering their aspirations. Six legislators have also shown interest in the deputy speaker position.
The aspirants would reach out to newly elected MPs soliciting votes as well as trading counter accusations of incompetence especially on the position of speaker.
Kadaga who is seeking a third term as speaker accused Oulanyah of absconding from chairing the house, fearing to chair sensitive matters on the floor of the house including the removal of the presidential age limits. Oulanyah refuted the allegations calling them lies fabricated by the Speaker Kadaga. The MPs who support his bid said Kadaga seldom let Oulanyah chair the house.
At the peak of the heated campaigns that nearly degenerated into a fist fight between the speaker and deputy speaker of the 10th parliament, President Yoweri Museveni who also doubles as the national chairman of the NRM, stopped the duo in March from further campaigns.
The preside faulted Kadaga, her Deputy Oulanyah and other NRM MPs eyeing the deputy speaker position of undermining the party structures and behaving as if they are bigger than the party. The president made it clear that he wouldn’t tolerate indiscipline, according to Daily Monitor, a local newspaper.
“This is not the way we have been working as the NRM. Are you independent candidates?” the President was quoted by the daily as havong asked in a separate meeting at Statehouse.
The party’s national chairman had learnt that the duo were holding meetings with MPs from both the NRM party and Opposition.
“Who announced these campaigns? And which constituency are you campaigning for since the 11th Parliament has not yet been sworn in?” Museveni reportedly charged without attracting answers from the targets.
In one of the meetings, the president is reported to have threatened that the Central Executive Committee may even leave out the ‘indisciplined’ aspirants and choose other NRM candidates for Speaker and Deputy Speaker”.
Indeed, the aspirants temporarily put a stop to their campaigns restoring calm from both camps.
Now, in a turn of events, the party has Tuesday afternoon used its twitter account to announce that their Electoral Commission has asked aspirants to disclose interest in the positions.
“NRM electoral Commission calls upon party members that are interested in the speakership and deputy speakership positions of the 11th Parliament to pick interest forms from the NRM electoral commission starting tomorrow,” wrote the party on twitter on Tuesday.
This is unprecedented. Normally, after MP elections, either CEC or party parliamentary caucus decide on who assumes the speakership in case of more than one candidate.
In 2016, it took the intervention of the NRM’s Central Executive Committee to convince Jacob Oulanyah to step down for Rebecca Kadaga following her request to be allowed to serve a second and final term as speaker. This position was reiterated by Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa.
It is not clear how the party intends to chose the flag bearers for the two positions after expressing interest. However, it is anticipated that the EC will forward successful candidates to CEC to select the most suitable or further forward the names to Caucus to for a vote.
For starters, NRM has since the return of multiparty dispensation to the country, commanded the majority in parliament. In the 11th parliament, they party has more than half of the MPs, and because they have the numbers, most of their resolutions or decisions are backed and passed by parliament.
Outside the ruling party, opposition political parties like Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Democratic Party (DP) have since fronted Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira Municipality) and Richard Ssebamala (Bukoto Central) for speaker respectively.
MPs will be sworn-in in groups starting on May 17, before the first sitting of the new parliament slated for May 20 when both speaker and deputy speaker will have been voted from and by the members of the 11th parliament as provided by rule 5 of the parliamentary rules of Procedure.
The election of the speaker are presided over by the Chief Justice or a judge representing him or her. Shortly after the speaker upon being sworn-in by the Chief Justice, he or she presides over the election and swearing in of a deputy speaker.