Kampala, Uganda — Three in four Ugandans say they expect vote counting to be more accurate at their polling station than at the national tally centre in the capital city, according to a nationwide survey released by Afrobarometer on Jan.12 in Kampala.
While three quarters (76%) say they think the tallying of elections would be at least "fairly accurate" at their own polling station, only one in three (34%) has confidence in vote counting at the national tally centre in Kampala. Fewer than half (44%) of citizens expected the 2021 election to be "completely free and fair" or "free and fair with minor problems," the latest Afrobarometer survey indicates.
Based on these sentiments, eight out of 10 Ugandans (80%) consider it "somewhat" or "very" likely that the losing side in the 2021 election will refuse to accept the official election results.
Asked how much the respondents feared becoming a victim of political intimidation or violence during the current election campaign, half of the respondents Afrobarometer talked to (51%) said "somewhat" or "a lot." In comparison, 49% answered the same question that way in 2015 and 37% in 2011.
Asked how free and fair they thought the campaign environment has been with regard to coverage of all candidates and parties by the private media, close to half of the respondents (48%) agreed with the statement but 36% of the respondents agreed with the treatment given to all candidates and parties by the Election Commission officials.
With regards to opportunity for all candidates and parties to hold meetings or rallies, only 34% agreed that the presidential candidates had received equal opportunity. Meanwhile 33% of the respondents think government media did a good job of covering all candidates while 29% of the respondents said the treatment of candidates and parties by police and other security agencies was done fairly.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan survey research network that has since 1999 been providing reliable data on democracy, governance, and quality of life in 38 African countries including Uganda. This is Afrobarometer's 11th survey in Uganda.
Thanks to funding from the Embassy of The Netherlands in Uganda, the Afrobarometer team led by Hatchile Consult Ltd did face-to-face interviews with 2,400 adult Ugandans between 22 December 2020 and 7 January 2021 in 300 enumeration areas across 110 districts for the survey.
Free and fair elections
Francis Kibirige, the national coordinator of Hatchile Consult, the firm which conducts Afrobarometer's surveys in Uganda told The Independent that ordinary Ugandan citizens are more exposed to what happens at the village level and so they are more likely to trust their LC1, much more than even the president.
Kibirige said: "They live with the LC1; they see them, they know them and they can predict what the LC1 will say or will not say given a situation.
"So when they line up to vote on polling day, at their village, they know and believe in what has happened. This is largely because they don't know what goes on inside the National Tally Centre or where the tally centre is."
"I think it is incumbent upon the Electoral Commission to come out more clearly to explain to Ugandan citizens what exactly goes on during the tallying process; what happens to that ballot box when it leaves the polling station until when its contents are announced at the national tally centre," said Kibirige .
Kibirige urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to come up with special messages focusing on the issues the poll raised, ahead of the main election day that is due on Thursday, January 14.
"I think that it would help if the EC came out to calm down people's nerves because they have been told and warned including by the ruling NRM party members that the ballot can be stolen, tampered with or changed. So there is genuine fear in these results because they don't know what happens at the national tally centre," he said.
"The EC should communicate better, speak more frequently and above all explain more clearly to the ordinary Ugandans to explain what goes on. Then we will probably see the trust levels of results at the national tally centre improve."
However, an official from the Electoral Commission who attended the event allayed any fear amongst Ugandans saying the EC will deliver a credible election on Jan.14.
"The tallying of results will be forwarded to the district tally centre where a big screen has been provided by the EC to project results from polling stations; agents of the candidates can compare results with what they have," he said, "The same will also happen at the national tally centre to relay district results."
COVID-19 impact on elections
Meanwhile, about half (48%) of the respondents expect the overall credibility of the general election results to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. About 45% of the respondents said they foresaw the Electoral Commission's ability to ensure free and fair elections while 44% said the police and security forces will fairly enforce electoral laws.
But another 39% said COVID-19 would impact on citizens' decisions to go to the polling station on Election Day.
In order to improve the credibility of the general election, more than six in 10 Ugandans (62%) say that in order to help ensure a free, fair and credible election, the police should relax enforcement of COVID-19 regulations during the election campaign. (SEE FULL REPORT PAGE 2)
Museveni's election to lose
According to the survey, Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent holds a nearly three-in-one lead over closest challenger, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, among registered voters willing to declare their voting intentions ahead of Election Day. However, many respondents refused to say who they intended to vote. "So the final outcome may be much closer," the survey says.
According to the survey findings, 53% of the respondents who self-identified as registered to vote said they would cast their ballots for Museveni who won 60.75% of the vote in 2016.
About one in five respondents (18%) favoured the pop-star-turned politician, Bobi Wine whose real name is Kyagulanyi Robert Ssentamu. But a quarter of the respondents refused to disclose how they intend to vote.
Dr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, the Afrobarometer national investigator for Uganda told The Independent shortly after the release of the survey that it is intriguing to see that even people who intend to vote the incumbent; there is not much trust for the Electoral Commission producing credible results.
"They credit the EC for carrying out a good voter registration exercise but still doubt if the EC can produce a credible election. For me that poses the question; why do they think the EC cannot produce a credible result given that they are supporters of a sitting government?" he said.
Golooba-Mutebi also noted the survey finding that almost a quarter of the respondents are unwilling to reveal who they are going to vote for.
"I think that in many cases that would suggest that they are probably going to vote for candidates other than the incumbent president," he said.
"And if it's 26%, who are they going to vote for? This survey also shows that there is likely to be a huge turn-out on Election Day."
"People were very keen to register and people say they are going to go and vote. In many cases, in highly contested campaigns; if the voter turn-out is high, it usually suggests that the opposition candidates are going to win more votes than normal."
Golooba-Mutebi said it is like giving birth to a child and not being sure that this child will grow into an adult; it doesn't stop you from having a child because you want the child anyway. Whether the child grows into an adult or not is beyond your control.
"It's the same thing for Ugandans," he said, "they want to vote for candidates of their choice and they keep hoping that may be this time they will get the right result but deep down they don't think that that is likely given the environment."
Among the 84% of respondents who said they were registered to vote, more than half (53%) indicated they would vote for Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
About one in five (18%) said they would cast their ballots for Bobi Wine and his National Unity Platform (NUP) party. The other nine candidates combined get 5%.
One in four registered voters refused to answer the question (22%) or said they did not know how they would vote (2%)
When asked who they thought would win the election, regardless of their own intentions, a large majority (57%) predicted victory for Museveni, compared to 21% for Bobi Wine.
Support for the challenger was stronger in urban areas (26% for registered voters, vs. only 15% in rural areas) and among younger Ugandans (24% of 18-35 year olds). Even among these groups, Museveni outpaced his challenger (35% in urban areas, 45% of younger voters) though undeclared voters add a degree of uncertainty.
In the Parliamentary election, among registered voters, 52% say they plan to vote for the NRM candidate, while 29% identified another party. But 18% do not voice their preference (16% refused, 2% said they "don't know").
The parliamentary vote mirrored the presidential vote fairly closely in terms of party preferences. Depending on how those who would not reveal their preference break, the Uganda Parliament could be quite closely divided after the upcoming election.
While this suggests that the NRM is likely to retain control of Parliament, if the "quiet voters" break more strongly for the opposition, as one might expect in the current campaign environment, the NRM could end up with at best a slim margin of control (compared to its two-thirds majority in the current Parliament).
Charity Ahimbisibwe, the executive director of the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU), an alliance that brings together hundreds of civil society organisations in the country said the Afrobarometer survey findings have helped them put numbers on some of the issues they have been crusading and teaching citizens about during the electoral campaign period.
But she questioned the statistics that noted that candidates feel more poorly treated by the EC than the security forces.
Ahimbisibwe said the reverse couldn't be more true considering the fact the security forces seem to have taken over the electoral process to the extent that even when the EC wrote to the Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola in December following complaints of harassment and mistreatment by opposition presidential candidates, Ochola asked the EC Chairperson, Simon Byabakama, to produce evidence.
About 2021 Uganda General Elections:
General elections will be held in Uganda on 14 January 2021 to elect the President and the Parliament.
Incumbent President Museveni, who has ruled the country since 1986, is seeking re-election.
Other presidential candidates include opposition leader and former pop-star, 38-year-old Bobi Wine of the National Unity Platform, John Katumba, Willy Mayambala, Fred Mwesigye, Henry Tumukunde, Joseph Kabuleta, Nancy Kalembe, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, Mugisha Muntu and Norbert Mao.
Uganda 2021 Elections Afrobarometer Poll by jadwongscribd on Scribd