Uganda: EC Should Forge Better Buy-in for 2021 Polls

(file photo).

Two twin events this week have raised the political temperature in the country ahead of 2021 General Election. First was the joint political push by United Forces of Change by Opposition political parties on Monday.

Four-time presidential candidate Kizza Besigye and Kyadonddo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, spearheaded the move. The second event was the Electoral Commission (EC) announcing a revised roadmap for the 2021 General Election, yesterday.

But the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Democratic Party (DP) have rejected outright the "scientific polls." FDC leader Patrick Oboi Amuriat said the polls bear the hallmarks of rigging, with candidates not allowed to hold public rallies, but campaign over radio and TVs, or reach out to voters on social media.

These fears among the Opposition need to be addressed and EC cannot proceed as if all is normal. Indeed, when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, EC had rolled out some of its activities, but the coronavirus disease threw off balance all these.

As a result, EC lost an entire three months of planned electoral activities due to the Covid-19 lockdown. This new situation demanded EC to consult and come up with new information, education, and communication on resumption of election activities under the revised roadmap. This would have won the crucial input, goodwill, buy-in, and ownership by the key stakeholders.

However, the unquestionable announcement by EC of the revised timetable for the 2021 polls, including dictating dates and manner of campaigns, kills off any consensus on the country's democratic future.

The EC announcement demanded that parties in the Inter-party Organisation for Dialogue (Ipod) and key civil society organisations working on electoral matters should have been engaged on the planned 2021 polls.

But as things are, the EC and its formless commands are silent on NRM's resolution on lining up behind candidates in its primaries that would likely violate current guidelines of social distancing. The EC, too, is mute on problems posed by both radio and TV as tools of campaigns, considering poor access to the two media and erratic or no power supply to most of rural Uganda.

Moreover, the EC is silent on how newcomers on the political scene will sell their new faces to the public. Even worse is EC's vagueness on what media and modalities the campaigners will use so as not to lock out needy candidates.

Nonetheless, just as DP president-general Norbert Mao has proposed, it is not too late for EC to use Ipod and expand its consultation to key political organisations and players. This would create consensus on a way forward for free, fair, credible and verifiable 2021 election.

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