By Nicholas Opiyo
In the current process of amending the constitution, there have been proposals to extend the term of office for the presidency and MPs from 5 to 7 years.
Speaking to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee during their (committee) consultation with him, President Museveni indicated that 5 years is too short and only for those who want to improve their resume. He suggested it was impossible to create change in a country within five years. This same proposal had also been muted publicly by Museveni’s clown-in-chief and Arua Municipality MPs, Hon. Abiriga.
Media report also indicated that the Deputy Attorney General suggested that the term of parliament can be extended through an amendment of th constitution by MPs because the provision is not entrenched.
Regardless of its merits or lack of it, the proposal can not be passed by parliament without an approval of the people through a referendum. This is because, the term of parliament is tied to the period of elections, which in turn is premise on the term of office of the president.
Lets break it down. The term of office for the president is provided for in article 105 (1). It is fixed term of 5 years. In their wisdom, the framers of the constitution made that provision an entrenched provision.
This means that in order for the provision to me amended, parliament will have to pass it at the second and third reading, by a two third majority of all members of parliament. It does not become law after such enactment. The constitution requires it to be referred to a decision of the people and approved by them in a referendum. That is the essence of/provided for in article 260 (2) (f) of the constitution.
The constitution on the other hand does not directly entrench the provision for the term of office for MPs. On the face of it, one would assume that MPs can then pass an amendment to extend their term, if they so wish.
A general pricinple of constitutional interpretation requires that the constitution be read as a whole and one provision enforcing and not contradicting the other. One provision can not be held to be unconstitutional as to another. So to understand why the term of parliament is also entrenched, one has to look other provisions of the constitution other than article 77(3)- which provides for a five year term for MPs.
A provision touching upon the same matter andwhihc may be instructive is article 61. In general article provides for the function of the electoral commission. It seems far fetched to the question of extending the term of parliament. But a closer look at sub clause 2 reveals something important. The clause povides for the periods in which general elections for presidential, parliamentary and local government elections are held.
The sum effect of the provision is that the electoral commission is required to hold presidential, general parliamentary and local government council election ninety (90) days before the expiration of the term of the president.
In other words , the tenure of office for other elected leaders are tied to that of the president, which is an entrenched provision requiring a referendum to amend. It would follow therefore that if the term of the legislature can not be amended by parliament. For parliament to be able to extend their term, they will have to first amend article 61 (2).
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org