Uganda: MPs vote to remove presidential age limit

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Lawmakers in Uganda voted overwhelmingly in favour of removing constitutional age limitations for presidential candidates on Wednesday, paving the way for Yoweri Museveni to run for a sixth term as president in 2021.

The controversial bill passed with 315 votes in favour, 62 against and two abstentions following days of heated debates in parliament. A number of opposition MPs were suspended and other walked out during the buildup but the final vote means the bill will pass into law as soon as it is signed by Museveni.

Uganda votes for constitutional changes

The bill means Museveni can legally run for president in another two elections, potentially serving a total of seven terms in charge before Uganda is forced to choose another leader. Under current laws, Museveni would not be able to run in the country’s next election in 2021 as the constitution prohibits candidates over the age of 75 from running.

However, the 73-year-old leader will now be able to run in another two elections, which could keep him in power until the age of 86 – assuming there are no further changes made to the constitution over the next decade.

Term limits reinstated

The new bill will also reinstate the two presidential term limit rule in Uganda, which Museveni successfully removed in 2005, allowing him to hold on to power until now. However, the term limit will only come into effect after the next election and Museveni’s previous terms will not be taken into consideration, allowing Museveni to run for another two consecutive terms.

Critics accuse Museveni of attempting to secure his presidency for life. Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo told AFP the moves were “a reversal of Uganda’s democratic process”.

“To remove the age limit — one of the most important safeguards — will entrench a dictatorial and autocratic regime in Uganda, ” he said.

Featired image: “President of Uganda” flickr photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office https://flickr.com/photos/foreignoffice/8718467280 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.