Members of Parliament have decried the tendency of political parties to dictate to them positions to be taken in Parliament on topical issues.
Members raised their concerns during the ongoing post-election seminar held at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala on Wednesday 29th June 2016.
The Members of Parliament said it was common for party whips and party leadership to ignore their ideas in the political party caucuses.
Hon. Thomas Tayebwa (NRM, Ruhinda North) said in the NRM party, the leadership did not give them a chance to influence the party’s position.
“The Central Executive Committee of NRM should give room to its MPs to advance their ideas instead of suffocating them,” Tayebwa said.
Hon. Jalia Bintu (NRM, Masindi District) suggested that in the 10th Parliament, a system should be devised to allow MPs a certain level of autonomy from their political parties.
“As MPs, we represent constituents who may need us to advance issues that are not necessarily in tandem with our party positions and so we need that freedom,” Bintu said.
Hon. Anthony Akol (FDC, Kilak North County) said Parliament needs to be treated like the arm of government it is.
“Recently we saw the leadership of a certain political party advancing their stand on who should be elected Speaker of Parliament,” he said.
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) through their Central Executive Committee promoted the incumbent Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 9th Parliament to retain their positions in the 10th Parliament.
In response, Prof. Mwesiga Baregu, a University Professor from St. Augustine University in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania said MPs needed to be given their freedom because they operate under an autonomous arm of government.
“There is a tendency for the Executive through the ruling party to encroach upon the autonomy of Parliament,” he said adding that, “Political parties tend to expel their members who take a different stand in Parliament, which is wrong.”
A case in Uganda can be drawn from the four NRM MPs; Mohammad Nsereko, Barnabas Tinkasimiire, Theodore Ssekikubo and Wilfred Niwagaba, who were expelled from their party for having differing ideas during the 9th Parliament.
Prof. Baregu said these actions water down the legitimacy of Parliament.
In his presentation, Prof. Baregu said African states suffer from a crisis of legitimacy and when many fail, they find alternative means of acquiring this legitimacy.
“When elections and citizens demonstrate discontent in the legitimacy of the result, many states opt for manufacturing it through persuasion or coercion of the citizens,” he said.
He said that political parties and the multi-party system in Africa have a number of challenges.
“Oversight and criticizing the government is left to only the opposition yet this is supposed to be the role of all MPs regardless of their political leaning,” he said adding that, “MPs also tend to fail in balancing the loyalties between their constituencies and the political parties.”
Prof. Baregu said that MPs need to focus on these areas of weakness and work towards rectifying them.
The Members of Parliament are currently attending the one-week seminar, which started on Monday 27th June 2016 and will end on 1st July 2016.
The seminar is set to focus on good governance, dynamics of political parties, parliamentary practice and procedures, human rights, gender and etiquette among other topical issues.