Sunday June 1 2014

Time to fast-track electoral reforms

Recent events dictate that the time is now for Uganda to overhaul the electoral system because several voices are questioning the integrity of the Electoral Commission (EC).

First, the united front of the Opposition and civil society organisations have been traversing the country galvanising citizens to rally to their calls for electoral reforms and reconstituting the EC. This need has been made more urgent because President Museveni has joined the chorus pointing out inefficiencies of Uganda’s electoral conduct.

President Museveni now also believes the EC is ‘corrupt’ and ‘lacking in integrity’ because his ruling NRM party recently lost ground in Luweero, its birthplace and presumed safe seat.

In light of these accusations, the EC must listen to the growing calls that electoral reforms be fast-tracked. First, several court cases have faulted the EC for failure to adhere to standards of a fair electoral process.

It all began with the opposition’s Kizza Besigye who challenged President Museveni’s election victories in 2001 and 2006, and the Supreme Court proved them right when they ruled that both elections were not conducted in conformity with constitutional and electoral laws.

More importantly, President Museveni as head-of-State should show responsibility and agree to Opposition calls for a national consultation to forge a consensus on a new system for organising and managing fair and transparent elections. Ugandans should come together to examine these propositions for a national dialogue involving Uganda’s core institutional networks.
For this matter, MPs, religious institutions, trade unions, political parties, CSOs, and the business sector must, as a recent opinion poll suggests, listen to the 75 per cent of Ugandans who have all agreed and given a ringing endorsement that the Opposition political parties and President Museveni should sit down and agree to correct what is wrong with EC and guarantee a free and fair elections in 2016 and subsequent years.

This national dialogue is essential because Ugandans are more or less split between hope and doubt of a peaceful change of power under the current electoral system.