12 December 2018

Uganda: EC Launches Roadmap for Next Election, Vows Transparency

Kampala — The Electoral Commission has announced that the next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held anywhere between January 11 and February 9, 2021.

Parliamentary candidates will be nominated on August 12, 2020, a week before presidential contenders are chosen on August 20.

Releasing the 2020/21 strategic plan and election roadmap in Kampala yesterday, the Electoral Commission chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama, said they are willing to deliver a "fair and transparent" ballot as long as other stakeholders meet their part of the bargain.

"To achieve the above, the commission appeals to the government, particularly Cabinet and the Legislature, to ensure timely amendment and or enactment of the relevant electoral laws, including considerations of recommendations [by] the Supreme Court," he noted.

Supreme Court judges, in their verdict on the Amama Mbabazi petition challenging President Museveni's re-election in 2016, raised 10 issues for the Executive and Parliament to fix through legislation.

These included revising the timeframe for filing and determining a presidential election petition, associated nature of evidence to be adduced, the duration within which to hold election in the event of an annulment and regulation on technology use in voting.

Other matters the justices asked the two arms of government to prescribe in law included access and use of the public broadcaster (Uganda Broadcasting Corporation), right timing for enacting required legislation, donations during campaigns, role of public officers in vote canvassing and that of the Attorney General in election petitions.

The Supreme Court ordered the Attorney General, as the government's chief legal adviser, to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations but he still has not reported on the status, even after the two-year threshold period the court gave him to update it lapsed.

At yesterday's function, Mr Byabakama said adherence to the proposed electoral reforms are "very important and urgent" to build confidence among election stakeholders and strengthen the commission's institutional capacity to manage the next polls better.

He said amendment in electoral laws "will have to take into consideration the electoral roadmap, the procurement timeframes in accordance with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (law) requirements...and the impact on overall election budget."

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who launched the new EC roadmap, promised government's legislative and financial support "within the resource envelope."

The guests, comprising diplomats, government officials, media representatives, security personnel and civil society actors, burst into laughter and Dr Rugunda too cracked up.

"This [electoral roadmap] launch event elevates our good standing in the community of democratic nations. The government of Uganda reiterates its commitment in promoting a strong and credible electoral democracy," Dr Rugunda said.

The commission wants Shs868b to organise the next election, nearly double the Shs500b it spent during the 2016 presidential and general elections.

The drivers of the upward expenditure are the creation of new districts and other administrative units, EC said, citing the expected increase in the number of districts by 29 above the 112 districts in the country a couple of years ago.

This provides an opening for 29 new district Woman MPs and, depending on the configuration, probable new seats for directly-elected lawmakers.

Some of these slots have been filled once the new districts became operational on rolling basis every new financial year.

The number of municipalities will by the next election be up by 41, rising to 80, each of which is a parliamentary constituency. In total, the commission is preparing for the election of at least 440 MPs.

It estimates that there will be 602 new sub-counties, each requiring a chairperson, and more than 2,000 and 7,000 new parishes and villages, respectively. The result: About 7,000 new polling stations.

Justice Byabakama said they anticipate the number of voters to increase by 4.1 million to 19.4 million.

The EC officials announced that they had unveiled the election roadmap 14 months prior to the polling days to enable different stakeholders, particularly the government and political parties, to determine timelines of their related activities and support the election body.

"The Electoral Commission is committed to implementing this plan and roadmap," said its secretary Sam Rwakoojo.

He added: "EC alone cannot realise these desired goals and results without the full participation and support of every stakeholder. I, therefore, appeal to all stakeholders to work towards achieving cohesion for the democratic development of Uganda, above individual aspirations."

Former presidential candidates Maj Gen Benon Biraaro, Abed Bwanika and Elton Joseph Mabirizi attended alongside top officials of other political parties.

One outstanding announcement yesterday by the EC, which Opposition politicians have struggled to extract for years, was a commitment to generate an accurate and credible national voters' register beforehand.

Share register

The commission said it would this time share the electronic version of the national voters' register with all participating political parties and organisations for verification on August 20-21, 2020.

This would be the same period for nomination of presidential candidates, but at least four months before the actual presidential and parliamentary ballot.

"Technically, the roadmap offers a clear sense of direction to the next general election and sets the ground for citizen participation," Mr Crispin Kaheru, the coordinator Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), which has observed previous elections, said.

Mr Kaheru, who attended the launch of the EC blueprint, said: "The challenge, as always, is never about the plans...but rather the implementation of the ideas in those good documents."

Mr Leonard Mulekwah, the EC director of operations, who presented the strategic plan and roadmap, said they will succeed only if government does not enact new election-related laws or create administrative units beyond February next year.

This, Mr Mulekwah said, will give the commission ample time to delineate polling stations, prepare and display national voters' register and other interest-specific registers, procure equipment timely and enable other participants plan their election activities seamlessly.

It is the kind of caveat that Mr Kaheru echoed: A good roadmap alone, cannot deliver a good election unless the integrity of the process and actual exercise are guaranteed.

Court petitions

Outcomes of some of previous elections have been challenged in court, including the 2001, 2006 and 2016 presidential elections.

Whereas the lower courts have annulled several parliamentary and district chairperson elections, the Supreme Court on all three occasions returned Mr Museveni as validly re-elected.

Electoral activities

October 30, 2018: Cut-off of creation and demarcation of new administrative units and local governments.

-Enactments/Amendments of enabling laws and Code of Conduct for Political Parties/Organisations.

April 17, 2019- May 7: Demarcation of constituencies and electoral areas and reorganisation of polling stations .

May 12, 2019- June 21: Capture of demarcation and reorganisation returns.

June 26, 2019: Publication of the constituencies, electoral areas and their polling stations.

July 1, 2019-July 30: Receipt and handling of complaints arising from Demarcation and Reorganisation.

Aug 14, 2019-Oct 2: Final publication of reorganised polling stations in preparation for the general update of the National Voters' Register

November 21, 2019- January 20, 2020: General update of the register in each parish in line with Article 61 (1)(e). Compilation of Youth/PWDs/Older Persons/Workers Registers in line with ECA Sec. 18(1).

January 20, 2020: Cut-off of update of the National Voters' Register and compilation of youth, PwDs, older persons and workers registers in line with ECA Sec. 19(7) & 19(8)(a).

January 21, 2020-January 25: Retrieval of update returns from parish to EC headquarters.

January 29, 2020- March 8: Capture of update returns and compilation of display register.

December 30, 2019- January 3, 2020: Gazette and publish polling stations and display period in line with ECA Sec. 25(1) & Sec. 33(3).

March 19, 2020-April 8: Display of the National Voters' Register at each polling station in line with ECA Sec. 24(1) & Sec. 25(1).

April 10, 2020- April 20: Display of Tribunal recommendations at each Parish in line with ECA Sec. 25(1a).

April 21, 2020-May 1: Retrieval of NVR display returns from polling stations to EC headquarters.

May 2, 2020- May 31: Cleaning and processing the National Voters' Register for nominations

March 30, 2020- April 3: Gazette and publish candidates' nomination dates and venues in line with Presidential Elections Act Sec. 8(1), Parliamentary Elections Act Sec.4 (4)(a), Sec. 9(1) & Local Govt Act Sec. 119(1).

July 20, 2020: July 24, 2020:Nomination of candidates (local governments, including SIGs) in line with Section 119(1).

Aug12, 2020-August 13: Nomination of candidates (Parliamentary) in line with Section 9.

Aug 20, 2020-August 21: Nomination of candidates (presidential) in line with Sec 8.

-Issuance of Electronic Copies of the NVR to Participating Political Parties & Organizations. In line with ECA Sec. 18A.

Sep 2, 2020- January 9, 2021: Campaigns (presidential) in line with Sec. 21(1).

July 29, 2020- October 27: Production, printing and delivery of ballot papers

August 16, 2020- January 9, 2021: Campaigns (Parliamentary) in line with Sec 20.

July 30, 2020-January 9, 2021: Campaigns (Local governments, including SIGs)

Oct 7, 2020- Jan 5, 2021: Packing of polling kits

January 11, 2021-February 9: Polling period (presidential & parliamentary) in line with Article 61(2)

January 11, 2021- February 9: Polling period (Local governments, including SIGs).

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