The Ugandan parliament on Wednesday evening (December 20, 2017) voted to scrap presidential age limit which was formerly pegged at 75 years.
The controversial age limit bill was passed after passing through the three legislative stages and being put to a final vote. 315 Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favour, 62 against with 2 abstentions.
The next stage is for the amended portion of the constitution to be sent to the president for assent. The bill has stoked lots of tension in parliament and across the country with MPs exchanging blows at least on three occasions during the debate.
Lawmakers also extended the terms of office for the president and the parliament from five years to seven years. The extension will take effect with the ongoing tenures which started in 2016 and is expected to end in 2023 instead of 2021.
Another big change that was passed into law relative to the presidency was the restoration of two-term limit. It effectively means that Museveni can have two more shots at the presidency staring from the next elections in 2023.
Legislators in the Ugandan Parliament have voted on the controversial bill to lift the presidential age limit and the supporters of the bill took the day.
Earlier, the voting process, which was open with legislators saying ‘Aye/Yes’ or ‘Nay/No’, needed at least 289 votes in favour of the amendment to proceed to the next stage of legislation.
In the end, 317 legislators voted in favour of the amendment, 97 voted No while 2 members abstained from the vote.
‘’ Two members abstained, 97 voted against and 317 voted in favour of the amendment. Therefore the motion has been carried on’‘, pronounced the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.
The bill will now be closely scrutinised by a Parliamentary committee before it can be brought back to the floor of parliament for a second reading.
In the build up to this vote, parliament was the scene of chaos as two legislators were arrested as they tried to access parliament to serve the speaker and deputy attorney general with court summons that would have prematurely ended today’s debate.
The legislators who are also lawyers have sued the two officials over the suspension of six opposition legislators that happened on Monday during the presentation of the Legal Affairs Committee reports.
The suspended legislators were accused of ‘disorderly conduct’ and ‘refusing to heed the speaker’s instructions’.
There were also rowdy scenes in Parliament this week as legislators alleged that unauthorised security agencies had accessed parliament and defiled its premises, specifically the places of worship.
The legislators were debating two reports from the legal affairs committee which had been tasked to scrutinise a report on the presidential age limit bill.
While majority of the committee members (20 out of 30) approved the lifting of the age limit, 8 legislators including a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party opposed it saying the amendments were being done for the benefit of one person.
In debating the reports, the speaker questioned the inclusion of recommendations to restore presidential term limits and extension of the parliamentary and presidential terms to 7 years.
“In the report of the chair, there were two matters that were not originally part of the Bill. That is, the issue of the term limits [for a president]…,” Kadaga said.
“There was the issue of addressing the tenure of the president. It was also not part of the Bill. There was also the issue of adjusting the term of Parliament.
Many Ugandans used social media to express their disappointment in the way their legislators voted.
If this bill is passed into law, President Museveni who is currently 73 years old will be able to contest in the 2021 general elections.
Under the current constitution of Uganda, Museveni who will be 77 in 2021 can’t contest for the presidency since Article 102(b) stipulates that a presidential candidate shall be a Ugandan aged between 35 and 75.
Kindly follow us on twitter:@AfricanVoice2