Following Gen. Amin's coup of 25 January 1971, provisions of the 1967 constitution dealing with the executive and legislature were suspended, and Amin ruled by decree. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces and president of the military government, he exercised virtually all power.
Following Amin's defeat, the Uganda High Court in 1980 declared a modified version of the 1967 constitution to be the law of the land. The constitution was amended in May 1985, but it was suspended with the fall of the Obote government in July, when the National Assembly was dissolved. A 270-person National Resistance Council was established in 1986 to act as the nation's legislative body pending the holding of elections. Nonpartisan elections for the NRC were held in February 1989. There were 382 members, 216 elected and 166 appointed by the president. An appointed cabinet (including members of the banned opposition parties) advised the president. He also sought advice from and consensus with key interest groups and institutions on important policy issues, especially from the National Resistance Army.
The new constitution was enacted in October 1995, replacing the NRC with an elected parliament while leaving the power and structure of the executive largely unchanged. It provided for a 276-member body, with ensured representation for special interest groups (including 39 seats for women, 10 for the Army, 5 for the disabled, 5 for youth, and 3 for trade unions). By 2003, the number and proportion of appointed seats had been altered.
Parliamentary elections were first held on 27 June 1996 and again on 26 June 2001. The parliamentary term is five years. Presidential elections were held on 9 May 1996 and on 12 March 2001. Fresh elections were due in 2006. Suffrage is universal, at age 18.