Friday February 26 2016

EC should address voters’ mistrusts

The near dismal voter turnout in the local government elections across the country should worry Ugandans. This should force, especially the Electoral Commission (EC), to re-examine its image and standards of operations.

The EC should do a deeper soul searching and must pose as well as answer the following questions: What exactly caused the low voter turnout on Wednesday?

And why were the voters’ bubbling excitement and enthusiasm that greeted the presidential and parliamentary elections suddenly extinguished? Why was it impossible, in many cases, to raise the mandatory five voters to kick-start voting by 7am countrywide? And why were provision of pin codes for voter verfification machines, and voters registers difficult in some areas?

Why EC couldn’t stop the mishaps of swapping or misallocating candidates’ names, photographs, and symbols on ballot papers given the ample window of preparation, beats an average mind.

The expression of regrets by the EC is welcome but not enough to clean the blot on its public image. Indeed, it is early to deliver a definitive verdict on what went wrong, as EC deputy chief Joseph Biribonwa says.

Nonetheless, the voters’ lack of confidence and trust in the EC is evident. News reports across the country indicated the voters misgivings reach beyond EC’s apparent explanations of voter fatigue.

Neither can this be blamed on voters merely being interested only in presidential and MP elections.

The voters expressed both disappointment and frustrations in perceived bias of the EC in handling the first round of elections –both presidential and parliamentary.

In sum, the voters said their votes did not count and would not count in the final vote tally and declarations.

While this perception may be wrong, still it has got to be addressed. There were as well claims of poor voter education and awareness on categories of elective offices, date, and days.

Moreover, the voters seem not to be conscious about the importance of electing grassroots leaders.

Going forward, the EC and Parliament should introduce essential reforms to create an enabling environment and offset voters’ discontent. Both EC and Parliament have got to revisit suggestions that voting for all elective positions be done on the same day.

Alternatively, the electoral laws should be amended to provide for incremental interests in voting leaders; starting with low-level, and climax with parliamentary and presidential elections. These proposed solutions, among others, should significantly offset voters’ frustrations.

Above all, the EC should be reconstituted into an acceptable-to-all membership. This will help EC gain the all-essential legitimacy and win the confidence and trust of the citizens.