SCIENTIFIC ELECTIONS CANNOT BE FREE AND FAIR
The revised roadmap by the Uganda Electoral Commission for the 2020 - 2021 General Elections’ campaigns indicates that activities shall be conducted digitally or scientifically.
According to new guidelines aspiring candidates at all levels will be required to use television, radio, print media and social media platforms so as to observe social distancing to avert spreading of covid-19 pandemic.
A revised Roadmap highlights the dates for commencement of various key electoral activities, namely, nominations, campaigns and polling for various elective positions, that includes, Presidential, General Parliamentary, special interest groups and Local Government Councils. But the new plans by the Uganda Electoral Commission have been challenged by key stakeholders including the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and opposition political parties. There is every reasons to believe most aspiring candidates and the voters are going to be disenfranchised hence contravening electoral laws in the country. key players argue that the new guidelines introduced to avert Covid-19 infections contravenes the cardinal principle of the Electoral Commission conducting, credible, regular, democratic , transparent free and fair elections.
NRM party is stuck on how to proceed with scientific party election after amending their electoral laws from secret ballot to the physical lining up behind candidates. The party Central Executive Committee(CEC) has convened for four days and failed to resolved the matter. The party is supposed to agree on the mode of electing party flag bearers before proceeding with the main Local Councils, Parliamentary and Presidential elections. NRM will continue meeting in July to resolve the matter which puts the ruling party in a precarious position. Early this year NRM amended its constitution and replaced secret ballot with lining up behind candidates during party primary elections. However the new health regulations bars physical and open campaigns in mass gatherings in meetings and rallies.
But for the NRM to revert to secret ballot it would require a constitutional change which can only be effected by it highest decision – making organ, a 20,000 member delegates conference. It's now clear Covid-19 will not allow NRM delegates conference to approve President Yoweri Museveni's candidature. The party CEC endorsed his sole candidature but he must seek approval from the delegates’ conference as per party constitution. It is inconceivable how the party will hold its delegates conference via Zoom, teleconferencing facility. The party and its aspiring candidates, like opposition and independents, will not hold mass gatherings and most of their members are not compliant with modern technology. Some upcountry voters have no electricity, no television sets or radios, and no mobile phones. Most media proprietors are either NRM party members or opposition sympathizers which puts other groups or people with divergent views into jeopardy. How will NRM politicians avail opposition or opponents radios and televisions' channels to compete favorably?. In past elections opposition politicians have been pulled out of studios during live programs while some have been banned.
Public opinion will be drawn in favour of certain candidates especially NRM members while the rest will be disenfranchised or blacklisted from accessing the radios and televisions. How will candidates’ agents and election observer teams monitor elections?. The scientific campaign can never produce credible free and fair elections■