By Dr. O. KipenjiThe Electoral Commission (EC) is very important and should be appointed by Parliament. EC members should be women and men of high integrity irrespective of their past political affiliation. The members should have security of tenure of office; and security of tenure is great IF the vetting and nominating process is fair and rigorous.
Members of the commission [may be 9] should be nominated by both the legislature [in our federal model, the two houses] and the executive. The houses should nominate 6 members - 3 each while the political parties should also nominate 3. Such a mechanism would give members tenure (or constitutionally fixed term) and would help to insulate the EC from political maneuvers and interference. We have to be extremely careful with tenure because if the process is not right, it may end up guaranteeing mediocre and partisan members long reign. If that were to happen, it would be disastrous. Let me equate this to tenure in Western Universities: many otherwise promising scholars become less productive/industrious/ accountable once they secure tenure, and the universities can't do anything about it. In fact, many forget why they even occupy university offices, but at least the procedure in the academia is very rigorous - many actually fail to get tenure and leave to try their luck elsewhere where some eventually get it.
What should be the procedure for political representation? The idea of proportional representation sounds great and achievable. It is proposed that a clause restricting any one political party to be represented on the EC by more than 4 members is put in place. This avoids domination by one political party, and ensures that at least 3 members are women. This would ensure some independents and other stakeholders to the EC are nominated. One question remains though: What role - if any – should civil society play in the nomination process of EC members?
The Chairman should preferably be a lawyer with the standing to be appointed a judge of the high court of proven ability and integrity. The president should exercise the power to nominate a chairperson who shall be vetted and confirmed by the legislatures under their oversight powers. The legislatures shall nominate two vice chairpersons, one of whom shall be a woman. The chairperson and vice chairperson shall not be members of the same political party.
The Electoral Commission should be appointed on contract for a number of years that would not necessarily coincide with the general elections. Members should be nominated on a rolling basis with different tenure durations. 3 members shall be nominated and appointed every two years. Such a process would preserve institutional continuity.
The EC should have autonomous powers and should not be attached to the Office of the President; the parent ministry shall be the ministry of justice. The mainstream body should thus be professional with departments that serve voter updates, voter education and the day to day running of the commission.
The EC should be a permanent agency - updating voters' databases on a regular basis. It may be necessary to have a chief electoral person who shall head the professional team at the EC. With a little investment, the EC could establish a database where additions based on attainment of majority age and deletion following death could be maintained.
Such a database would be shared/linked to the office of the registrar of births and deaths (if it does not exist yet, must be created). Is this necessary? Yes, every new born shall be registered and entered into the database. That way someone born in 2001 would become eligible to vote in 2019. Moreover, with careful planning and little effort, the receipt registration number could sufficiently serve as the unique identification number of the person concerned. For anyone to vote, the query should match exactly: date of birth, name, receipt number, parents name. Likewise any deaths will be automatically entered into such a database and deleted from the central voters register.
The day of elections should be fixed in much the same way like the one in the USA where nobody can take advantage of the opinion polls, then choose to call a snap election just because they want to stay in power.
Therefore, it is suggested that the lections take place on the last Monday in August. The schools are closed and the weekend allows the EC to move votes and work on other logistics.
Voting day shall be a national holiday; voting for all political offices in each election year should be on the same day. It is insane to have presidential elections in March, parliamentary election in June, and local elections later. It is inefficient and costly in both time and human resources. Imagine how many people have died during the Presidential campaigns!
Ugandans are spending too much time politicking at the expense of other productive activities such as farming, business, etc.