By Charity Kalebbo Ahimbisibwe
On September 04, 2020, voters in Rushenyi County woke up to exercise their right to vote in the NRM MP Party primary elections.
In the NRM political party elections, not many women stood on the direct seat.
In Rushenyi County, however, Ms Naome Kabasharira stood on the direct seat to challenge Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana, the State Minister for Labour.
Voters in Rushenyi found Ms Kabasharira worth, they voted for her and she overwhelmingly garnered 24,006 votes against Rukutana’s 23,966 votes.
The election was conducted in the sub-counties and town councils of Kayonza, Rugarama, Rugarama East, Ngoma, Rubaare and Rwentobo-Rwahi.
Ccedu heavily deployed its observers in Rubaare and Rwentobo-Rwahi. Ccedu notes that, while the election was very contentious, supporters of Hon Rukutana perpetuated acts of violence, bribery and intimidation against the supporters of Ms Kabasharira.
On voting day at about 2:30pm in Rubaare, there were gunshots and people scampering for dear life. There were violent scenes and it took the intervention of security forces to return the situation to calm.
The NRM Party primary elections were aimed at promoting a system of government that is representative, but in most cases fell short of accepted democratic principles such as ensuring transparency and fairness in the elections.
The elections promoted acts of corruption and impunity and as such left voters disgruntled even when the elections were by lining up.
For elections that were conducted by lining up, the key question in the minds of voters’ is, how a recount can be done a week after the polls were cast.
The elections were cast on September 04 and a recount instituted on September 15, 2020.
How fair can that recount be, especially now that the elections were by lining up?
Ccedu, therefore, protests the doubtful manner in which the process surrounding the Rushenyi County NRM primaries has been handled.
Whenever electoral ills such as violence and bribery are captured in an electoral process as was the case in the NRM MP party primaries for Rushenyi County, the credibility of the process is questioned and if the perpetuator of any of the vices is in the race they are required to step aside for investigation.
THE SECRECY OF THE VOTE
Voters are not only entitled, but also obliged to the secrecy of their vote.
The method of voting in the NRM Primaries, in which voters are required to line up behind their preferred candidates exposes the voters’ choice and violates the principle of secrecy of the vote.
As such, the lining up method does not safeguard the electors’ freedom of thought and their political and other beliefs.
If political parties such as the NRM, are truly on a democratic path, then they should be seen to espouse methods of voting which ensure that the electorate is able to express itself freely; and that elected representatives are truly representative, thereby contributing to public trust in the institution of political party leadership.
The primaries were organised by the NRM secretariat, but have since attracted over 300 petitions because the process was marred by irregularities.
Rukutana has been MP of Ntungamo since 1993 and the voters have overwhelmingly supported him over the years.
Kabasharira’s support for maternal health and health infrastructure development and sports promotion in Ntungamo made her more loved by the voters.
Kabasharira also had the support of the cattle keepers in the area.
CCEDU appeals to the NRM Electoral Commission to announce the correct results that reflect what genuinely transpired in the Rushenyi County NRM party primary elections.
Any action that deviates from that will be sheer overthrow of the will of the people – and could result in unprecedented consequences.
The Issues surrounding the election in Rushenyi County needs to be amicably resolved so as to contain the looming violence that could so easily show up in the 2021 general elections.
Transparency, integrity and fairness eluded most of the processes observed and the NRM political party has a big role to play in bolstering the principles of democracy.
Charity Kalebbo Ahimbisibwe is the Coordinator of the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (Ccedu). The above statement was the coalition’s protest note on the lack of transparency in the Rushenyi NRM primary election vote recount.
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