Opposition parties plot new battle for electoral reforms ahead of 2016 polls
Posted Monday, October 14 2013 at 11:37
They plan to table proposals for reforms to the electoral law before the end of the year on a range of issues, including appointing an Electoral Commission from all shades of political opinion.
It has been a pastime of the opposition to allege electoral fraud whenever they lose an election according to Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the Secretary of the Electoral Commission.
He says the opposition usually makes “unfounded” allegations of rigging against the commission, but is unable to point out the stage during the electoral process at which the malpractice takes place.
“The voting is done in the open, the votes are counted and scores for each candidate are announced immediately,” Mr Rwakoojo says. “No one has come to us with proof that his votes at polling station A were changed to benefit another candidate,” he adds.
But what he does not say is that on two occasions, in 2001 and 2006, the Supreme Court agreed with Dr Kizza Besigye, then the FDC leader, that the elections had been riddled with irregularities, non-compliance with electoral laws and that the EC was one of the parties which were faulted.
Dr Besigye and all opposition candidates also rejected the outcome of the 2011 election.
However, they did not challenge it in court, with Dr Besigye saying the Supreme Court’s failure to annul the 2006 election eroded his confidence in the courts - at least as far as adjudicating election disputes is concerned.
The opposition instead intensified protests against the regime, most prominently under the banner of walk-to-work seeking to draw attention to the high fuel and commodity prices.
Before the 2011 election, protests had mostly been against the EC, with the opposition arguing that its composition, the manner of its appointment and President Museveni’s power to sack the commissioners gave him immense opportunity to influence it.
The body, with time, has adopted a defensive posture in its dealings with the opposition as a result. Its premises are among the most secured in the country with 24-hour police surveillance.
Armed policemen stare at passers-by across the Commission’s perimeter wall. The deployment started when a group of women, dubbed Women in Black because they wore black T-shirts, frequented the commission before the 2011 election.
They demanded that the commissioners, led by Mr Badru Kiggundu, resign to pave the way for the appointment of “an impartial” body.
Opposition politicians pointed to a reconstitution of the EC as the “minimum standard” in order to participate in the 2011 election lest they boycott it.
In an interface with the press before the campaigns in 2010, Dr Besigye vowed to see through the “reform” of the EC, failing which he said: “We will not escort Museveni to victory. Instead of fighting after the election, we rather fight before.”
But things would change quickly and opposition politicians say it started with the July 11, 2010 bombings at Lugogo and Kabalagala suburbs which killed nearly 80 people while watching the World Cup final.
Diplomatic pressure had reportedly been brought on Mr Museveni to cede ground as far as proposed electoral reforms were concerned.