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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Poll observer predicts scientific elections could be good ‘new normal’

Renowned election observer Crispin Kaheru has anticipated that scientific elections could help reduce cases of electoral malpractice that have previously dogged Uganda’s polls.

Kaheru was optimistic that if held in an inclusive way the polls could also usher in “a completely different electoral culture.”

On June 16, Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama released a revised schedule for next year’s general elections.

Byabakama also announced that all political rallies have been banned, and campaigning would be restricted to the media.

Already Pastor Joseph Kabuleta has sued him over this guideline because he did not consult political players nor is the rule steeped in law.

According to Kaheru, who previously observed election processes under the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (Ccedu) platform, there is need to urgently put in place enabling laws.

Kaheru’s successor as Ccedu national coordinator Charity Ahimbisibwe agrees with him.

“When you say ‘we are going to use technology in this election, under which legal framework are you operating?” she wonders.

Ahimbisibwe is also disappointed that the EC rejected Ccedu’s proposal for group meetings not exceeding 50 people.

The suggestion had been successful in the elections in Cameroon and Guinea held during the Covid19 crisis.

She is also concerned that limiting campaigning to the media knocks out many voters, especially in rural Uganda.

“If you do campaigns online you are going to cut off a lot of people,” she said in a media interview.

“The elitist people make a lot of noise on social media but they don’t vote yet they are the ones who mostly access media.”

Kaheru added: “The shift from physical to digital campaigns may leave out those people who have limited or no access to digital forms of communication, more so, in the Local Government elections.”

Besides the issues of the law and group meetings, Kaheru is also worried that political parties have been given less time to conduct their primaries.

He has argued that the revised roadmap “has very compressed timelines for activities” which could be difficult to meet.“For instance, political parties are supposed to have identified their flag bearers barely five weeks from now.

While this is to respond to the lost time due to Covid19 interruption, it remains to be seen if stakeholders can indeed match those tight timelines.”

If these challenges are addressed, Kaheru foresees reduced electoral malpractice.

“We may see less electoral violence, that is oftentimes fomented at campaign rallies. In fact we may see less voter bribery, less hate speech and disinformation during the elections may actually fall.”

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