WHAT IS THE RATIONALE BEHIND E-DAY DIRECTIVES?

Published by Patra K on

What is the Rationale behind E-Day Directives?

This is a courtesy photo

Following a statement by the Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama banning cameras at the polling stations and tally centers and also voters from not staying after voting, a debate has ensued on the motive of EC in an election race that has so far been violent with state high handedness on media, civil society and opposition.

If the banning of cameras and phones at polling stations is to ensure the secrecy of the ballot and mitigate vote buying since candidates may demand proof from voters before they pay, then it is a welcome initiative.  

But the motive behind EC’s directive has since been questioned as the Electoral Management Body suffers grossly from public mistrust. The secret known has been the questionable intention of EC trying to manage the voting process with minimum exercise of transparency hence compromising the integrity of the electoral process.

Since then, after public uproar, the Electoral Management Body has eased the restriction to allow cameras and recording devices at polling stations but only for other purposes and not recording or taking photographs inside the polling stations.

The EC maintains that voters after casting their vote should leave the polling station and go home. This is unprecedented in the history of Uganda’s elections and political parties mainly from opposition have vowed to defy this order. The electoral management body argues that this move is meant to prevent crowding in order to control the spread of COVID-19. Significant sections in society have seen this as a ploy to rig elections and have questioned the integrity of EC accusing it of siding with the ruling party NRM.

Indeed, what is at stake is the credibility of EC to deliver a credible, free and fair election.  Another secret known is the question lingering on the minds of the voters informed by precedents and behavior of EC as to why in this particular election under the guise of COVID-19, the umpire (EC) wants to referee under minimum public scrutiny.

For an election to be credible, free and fair, one of the key tenets is the transparency exhibited in the electoral process. By restricting public from openly observing the proceedings including voting and staying behind to count and tally the votes, is in itself a dent to the process and if not handled well could trigger election violence.

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1 Comment

Frances Linda Nakakande · January 13, 2021 at 12:33 am

I share the fears of the genuine opposition. Staying around to witness vote counting by the voters themselves has been used during the previous elections as a means of ensuring vote counting integrity and transparency. We already have prevailing and widely promoted Covid 19 management SOPs and guidelines that have been reviewed over time. One of the current guidelines is that in case of necessary gatherings, the total number of people should not exceed 200 provided they observe the SOPs. Why does the EC decide to contradict this on voting day and why does the MoH keep quiet over this contradiction. Who is technical and accountable for the health dimension of the electoral process? Is it the MoH or the EC? If government’s choice is to use the army, then the army should be deployed to ensure adherence to the SOPs and guidelines rather than denying voters to witness vote counting. Under our Transformative Leadership Program, as USEP Uganda we are working towards training and nurturing a new generation of ethical and transformative leaders and we have a very big task ahead of us.

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