Electoral reform crucial for democracy, Usaid boss says

Five Recurring trend of court challenges questioning Uganda’s results after every election undermines the credibility of the electoral system

Ms Leslie Reed 

BY Stephen Wandera

IN SUMMARY

KAMPALA.

Five Recurring trend of court challenges questioning Uganda’s results after every election undermines the credibility of the electoral system.

Speaking at the opening of a symposium on the 2016 presidential election petition and the future of Uganda last Friday in Kampala, Ms Leslie Reed, the Uganda Mission director of United States Agency for International Development (Usaid), said electoral reforms are crucial for long term democratic health.

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“Credible elections are the linchpin of a strong democracy and crucial to long-term stability. Now we all know that despite recommendations made by civil society and political parties for reform after the 2011 elections, no substantial reforms were implemented for 2016,” she said.

“The Constitutional Amendment Act 2015, which was expected to embrace the reforms recommended in 2011, did little more than change the name of the Electoral Commission to the “Independent Electoral Commission,” she said, adding that this resulted in a petition against the results that was later dismissed by the Supreme Court for lack of evidence.

The Supreme Court had, while dismissing Dr Kizza Besigye’s 2011 presidential election petition, recommended a raft of changes, which have never been implemented.

In their amicus curiae brief, Makerere University law lecturers asked court to pronounce itself on some of the unimplemented recommendations but not much was mentioned in that regard.
Similar reform recommendations from the European Union have also been ignored with hardly any improvement in the manner in which elections are conducted in Uganda.

Ms Reed said government should support reforms and stop conducting elections in an environment that is inconsistent with international standards and people’s expectations.

At the same meeting seasoned lawyer Fredrick Sempebwa said it has become a trend that an election cannot be overturned by court, arguing that the continued reasoning that the “irregularities were not substantial to affect the results of an election makes it impossible for any petition to succeed”.

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