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The East African : Dec 5th 2015
The EastAfrican NEWS DECEMBER 5-11,2015 UGANDA ELECTIONS Spotlight shines on a bungling electoral body Doubts eme≥ge ove≥ c≥edibility of vote≥s ≥egiste≥ afte≥ opposition aspi≥ant blocked By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent T he decision by the Electoral Commission not to allow former presidential candidate Norbert Mao to run for a parliamentary seat and its attempts to ban a civic voter education campaign has, once again, raised questions about its impartiality and ability to conduct a free and fair election. According to the EC, its blocking of Mr Mao from running for the Gulu Municipality MP seat, which he has occupied twice before — in the sixth and seventh parliaments — is due to the fact that he is not a registered voter, one of the prerequisites to compete for elective office in Uganda. The EC also ordered the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) to stop airing its messages dubbed “Topowa” (Don’t Give up Voting) because the adverts are “biased” in their orientation since they advocate change. For its positions on both matters, the EC has attracted widespread condemnation. The rejection of Mr Mao, who was elected chairperson of Gulu District in 2006, has been described as “illegal.” Some legal minds see Mr Mao as a victim of the confusion that has engulfed the preparation of the national voters’ register, which the EC is yet to complete seven months since it closed updating. Pressure from NRM The freeze on CCEDU’s campaign, which has been running for two and a half months, is seen as a reaction to pressure from the National Resistance Movement, in power for 29 years — 10 of these as an unelected military regime from 1986-96 and another decade as a quasi-oneparty state from 1996-2006. As such, NRM would be the political group most offended by any calls for change. The isolation of NRM as the complainant is driven by the EC’s unwillingness to reveal the source of the complaint, the speed with which it acted on it and its failure to point out excatly what is wrong with the messages since every presidential candidate is campaigning on a platform of change and Kizza Besigye’s supporters celebrate in Kampala on July 1 after FDC nominated him as its flagbearer in the 2016 elections. Pic: File CEON-U is a consortium of “Thirty-nine per cent of our observers did not detect any voter education in the areas where they are located.” Dr Martin Mwondha, CEON-U promising pretty much the same things anyway. A joint committee of EC and CCEDU officials cobbled up to study the television ads was due to present its report by press time on December 4 but it was unlikely that the EC would relent on its position. Some observers say this has serious implications for the electoral process since the EC is not conducting meaningful voter education. “Thirty-nine per cent of our observers did not detect any voter education in the areas where they are located,” said Dr Martin Mwondha, national co-ordinator of the Citizens Election Observers Network - Uganda (CEONU). “So, the Electoral Commission should not simply criticise what its partners are doing but ensure that it is improved, or step up their own voter education and information flow to citizens.” ‘IT’S A TRADITION’ Voter disenfranchisement is said to be prevalent in Ugandan elections. A CEONU report says thain the 2011 elections, a large number of people were found missing on the register. The Supreme Court also found that high levels of disenfranchisement occurred in 2001 and 2006. After opposition politician Nobert Mao (right) was blocked by the Electoral Commission from running 18 civil society organisations that is conducting a “unified, comprehensive and effective” domestic election observation mission for next year’s general election. It has observers in up to 200 constituencies spread across 16 regions. “Voter education is critical in an election because it helps to reduce disenfranchisement of voters,” says CEON-U’s first observation report for July 1 to November 15, which concludes that the electoral process so far is tainted with malpractices and irregularities. “Voters who have sufficient information about the electoral process will be better prepared and more eager to participate in the election.” Mr Mwondha added: “It is not clear to voters whether the Electoral Commission has a register or will depend on the national ID registration to derive a register, or if it will merge the two. “There is no clarity as to what instrument voters will use to cast their ballots. Will it be a voter’s card, a national ID or any other piece of acceptable identification, such as a passport? The Electoral Commission has not clarified any of these issues.” On April 1, the EC an- nounced that, effective March 31, it had retired the 2011 National Voters Register. It then commenced the compilation of a new one, first by extracting data from the National Identification Register, whose purpose was to aid issuance of national identity cards. Later, the EC opened up a general update exercise to register eligible persons who had not yet registered as voters or for the national ID, as well as egistered voters who had not indicated their preferred voting station. According to some lawyers, a huge part of this process — particularly the retirement of the old register and the extraction of part of the new one from the ID database — is not provided for in the laws governing the generation and maintenance of a national voters register. “It is not just Mao who has been affected by the EC’s anomaly,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a prominent human rights lawyer whom Mr Mao has engaged to file a complaint to the EC, for which he is yet to get a response. “We have so far received complaints from at least six other people who say they have voter’s cards, registered for the national ID, went and registered afresh to vote but were denied nomination because they do not appear on the register. “It appears then that what happened to Mao could have happened to many more people, which points to a much bigger problem with the voters’ register and goes to the core of a free and fair election because it affects the credibility of the outcome if people who are eligible to vote are scrapped from the register in unclear ways.” 5 for the Gulu Municipality MP seat, critics see him as a victim of the confusion that has engulfed the preparation of the national voters register by the EC.
Nov 28th 2015
Dec 12th 2015