Finally, Uganda’s Parliament has approved a motion for the continuity of the controversial ‘age limit’ bill by a large majority, effectively paving way for President Yoweri Museveni to run again in 2021.
A total of 317 MPs voted in favour of the motion to lift the upper age limit of 75 years while 97 members voted against. Two members abstained from the vote.
Voting was by roll call and tally, in line with rule 89 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. The rule stipulates that voting at the second and third readings of the Bill for an Act of Parliament to amend a provision of the Constitution has to be by roll call and tally.
The ruling party, which has a majority in Parliament, had argued that the age barrier discriminated against the elderly. But critics, including many lawmakers who wore red bandanas as a sign of their opposition, insisted the measure was part of what they called Museveni’s plan to rule for life.
The bill removes a measure in the constitution that prevented anyone younger than 35 or older than 75 to run for presidency.
President Museveni who has been in power since 1986, is 73 years old and would have been ineligible to run again in 2021.
Parliament voted in favour of the amendment, with the minority against it and two abstentions, parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said. “Therefore the motion has been carried.’’
The president now has to sign the bill into law.
Uganda once had term limits but they were jettisoned in 2005 amid accusations that lawmakers had been bribed to amend the constitution in favor of Museveni. That left the age barrier the only obstacle to a possible life presidency.
Wednesday’s vote followed heated exchanges and even brawls as opposition lawmakers put up a spirited struggle to prevent the bill from becoming law.
Lawmakers had been offered over $8,000 by the Parliamentary Commission to hold consultations on the issue, money that many considered a bribe.
Some in the opposition returned the money in protest.
During discussions of the bill in September, a number of opposition lawmakers were violently removed from parliamentary chambers by plainclothes soldiers allegedly drawn from the presidential guard. At least two were seriously injured and had to be sent abroad for treatment.