Wednesday February 12 2014

Let’s move fast on electoral reforms

Early this week, the opposition together with members of the civil society, launched a campaign that outlines amendments they want implemented in the electoral system for free and fair presidential elections in 2016.
Given numerous weaknesses within the country’s electoral system, this is a timely and commendable call.

Among other demands, the opposition and civil society want the current Electoral Commission overhauled and a new, independent and impartial electoral body set up. Still, they want the creation of a new clean and verifiable register of voters, which they say is “an absolute necessity if we are to ensure free and fair elections”.

All these are appropriate demands to make but the opposition and all those who share these noble views ought to appreciate that nothing is going to be delivered on a silver platter. And given that calls for electoral reforms have been made before, it is going to take fresh and smart strategies to achieve the electoral reforms that will move this country away from its current uncertainties.

Multi-pronged, well-planned and well-timed strategies will be required. Much as there are many Ugandans that need to be helped to appreciate the value and urgency of these reforms, efforts will have to be made to help the government appreciate the value of these reforms. It would actually be unfortunate and self-defeating for the government not to heed to these calls.

Many observers have pointed accusatory fingers at the National Resistance Movement as the greatest beneficiaries of a flawed electoral system and this is all based on the number of cases that have been brought against the party.
We need to support the draft Electoral Reform Bills that have been prepared by the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda. The solutions provided for in the Bills would be transformative if implemented.

The attainment of a truly independent Electoral Commission will undoubtedly attract substantive and procedural independence. The requirement for inclusive participation in the nomination process of members of the proposed independent electoral body would certainly increase ownership, confidence and public trust in the electoral system.
There are many challenges that Uganda needs to confront but if we succeed at attaining an independent electoral body, we shall be at the threshold of solving most of our challenges as a country.