What NRM looks for when choosing Speaker of Parliament

What NRM looks for when choosing Speaker of Parliament
President Museveni (C) looks on as Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (L) and her deputy Jacob Oulanyah (R) share a light moment after their election by NRM Caucus as flag bearers for positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively at State House Entebbe in 2016.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Winning the Speaker’s race for the next Parliament will not only depend on the criteria set by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party which enjoys the majority in Parliament, but also the interests of top party officials.

In May this year, 529 MPs will elect the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 11th Parliament. The positions are currently occupied by Rebecca Kadaga and Jacob Oulanyah as a speaker and deputy speaker respectively.

The duo has served for two five year terms. Although MPs elect the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the candidates must garner support from the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) which has turned out to be the most powerful organ when it comes to top jobs in Parliament and the Government.

CEC comprises President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the NRM chairperson, First National Vice-chairperson Moses Kigongo and 2nd National Vice-chairperson female, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and six regional vice-chairpersons namely the Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah (North), Musa Ecweru (East), Chris Baryomunsi (West), Godfrey Kiwanda (Central), Singh katongole (Kampala) and Simon Peter Aleper for Karamoja.

The others are the Secretary-General, National Treasurer, Deputy Secretary General, Deputy National Treasurer, Chairperson of NRM Parliamentary Caucus, All Chairpersons of the National Special League Committees, Chairpersons of Commissions, National Secretaries and Deputy National Secretaries determined by NEC.

Some analysts say ultimately, the Speaker’s race will go to whoever is in good books with the CEC members. This is based on the analysis of the past script of the 2016 speaker’s race between Kadaga and Oulanyah.

In 2016, it took the intervention of President Museveni to convince Oulanyah to step down and give Kadaga a chance to serve one more term. He also convinced MPs to vote Oulanyah against the Central Kampala MP Muhammad Nsereko. Some CEC and NRM members select candidates for the position of the Speaker or Deputy Speaker based on the five tenets of loyalty, credibility, dedication, national appeal and capacity to steer the house well.

According to Mike Mukula, the Eastern NRM regional vice-chairperson, CEC mostly considers loyalty and interest of the party when picking a Speaker. He says this is what determines who will work in consideration of the interests of the appointing authority. Mukula says although qualifications, experience and knowledge of the law count a lot, candidates need to be people of good repute and character with a national appeal and loyalty to the party.

Mukula says that although the job of the Speaker is chairing debate in parliament, the interest of NRM as a party in power supersedes the interest of Parliament as an institution when they are looking for a Speaker.

Ambassador Matayo Kyaligonza, a former CEC member says NRM considers experience. “If you are the Speaker, you are an arm of the Government, if you are the Chief Justice, you are an arm of Government, and if you are the President, you are an arm of the Government. The three contribute to the leadership of the country, you cannot dispense yourself from working with the Executive,” Kyaligonza said.

He says that at the end of the day, NRM will not look at someone who is non-cooperative. He says whether one is an MP or a Speaker, at the end of the day, one has to work with the President and the laws that are passed are for the country. Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a senior history lecturer at Makerere University says the support of the President will be a big determinant for whoever is elected speaker of parliament.

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He however says that the party is likely to consider how people voted in the regions, regional balance, sharing national cake and who appears to have done more work when selecting the speaker. He says the pressure from the regions will determine how NRM chooses the Speaker. Mwanbutsya says that although people expect a stiff race between Oulanyah and Kadaga, it will not happen since Museveni will resolve the matter either by maintaining the status quo or move one of the candidates to another position.

He says populism and the interest of Parliamentarians whether real or imagined will determine who is elected speaker of the next parliament. Dr. Sam Kazibwe, a lecturer at the Uganda Christian University (UCU) says that history has shown that NRM not only considers loyalty to the party but also to the party chairperson saying this might determine how NRM selects the Speaker.

According to Kazibwe, although the current leadership of Parliament is very competent, he does not think the NRM will look at competence as a key.