Gov’t moves to harmonise tenures of municipalities, NDCs

-proposes process to resolve tied polls without ministerial involvement

Government has proposed to harmonise the tenures of city and town councillors with those of neighbourhood councillors and the dates for their elections as part of a series of amendments to the local government laws.

The proposals, which also include procedures to break ties at both the municipal- and Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC)-levels without ministerial involvement, are contained in the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2018, which was introduced in the National Assembly on Thursday by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan.

The bill seeks to amend six related pieces of legislation: the Municipal and District Councils Act, the Local Government Act, the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, the Local Democratic Organs Act, the Local Authorities (Elections) Amendment Act and the Election Laws (Amendment) Act.

It proposes to amend the Municipal and District Councils Act to harmonise the term of office of mayors and deputy mayors with the terms of the chairmen and deputy chairmen of NDCs as specified in the Local Government Act, for a period of one year from January 1st to December 31st.

It also proposes to amend the Municipal and District Councils Act to harmonise the terms of office for councillors of municipalities with that of councillors of NDCs.

Its passage and enactment would ensure that subject to certain provisions, the term of office of the city councillors shall be three years, starting on January 1st following the declaration of the election results in keeping with the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, and ending on December 31st of the third year, “subject to and calculated in accordance with the electoral cycle as specified in Section 35 of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act.”

The amendment provides for the Town Clerk to call a meeting of the councillors of the municipalities, in every year, not later than December 6th, to elect the mayor and the deputy mayor for the ensuing year.

The bill also amends the Municipal and District Councils Act, the Local Government Act and the Local Democratic Organs Act to provide for using the number of votes garnered by the councillors elected on the basis of Proportional Representation lists at the elections at which they were elected to resolve ties in the election of mayors, chairmen and deputy chairmen.

“The final option provided for under clauses 2(c), 3 and 5 (of the Act) is similar to the procedure under article 177(3) of the Constitution relating to the drawing of lot to resolve the difficulty from a tie,” the explanatory memorandum says.

Bulkan has faced court challenges for his appointment of one mayor and the chairperson of a number of NDCs following tied votes. He made the appointments after the opposition rejected a proposal for the candidates who were tied to rotate the respective offices. With the amendment, the minister would no longer have a role in the resolution of ties.

The bill would also amend the Local Authorities (Elections) Act to provide for a procedure to resolve ties among constituency candidates that result from an election.

It seeks too to amend the Local Authorities (Elections) Act to harmonise the period for election of councillors of NDCs with that of councillors of municipalities, which shall be held once every three years on any date during November 1st to December 7th of the third year, counting from the year in which the term of office of the council started, which date shall be appointed by an order of the Minister of Communities.

As a result, it also seeks to amend the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Act 1990 to harmonise the period for election of councillors of municipalities with that for Neighbourhood Democratic Councils.

The bill’s passage and enactment would also amend the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2000 “to facilitate the effective implementation of continuous registration and the availability of an electoral list which shall always be in force and which shall be routinely updated every six months.”

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