Sunday July 1 2018

We followed the law to disqualify Pallisa FDC candidate, says EC boss

We followed the law to disqualify Pallisa FDC candidate, says EC boss

Team. The Electoral Commission (EC) Chairman, Mr Simon Byabakama (centre), and other EC officials at a press conference in Kampala in June. PHOTOS BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Solomon Arinaitwe

How prepared is the Electoral Commission for the LC 1 elections?
I would like to assure the people of Uganda that the EC is adequately prepared for the LC elections. We have sensitised the people, we have publicised the programme and we have interacted with the various stakeholders. Our appeal, which is being responded to positively, is that we should all work together to ensure that this long- awaited exercise can be concluded not to the benefit of politics per se but for the benefit of the people of Uganda.

One of the major problems of elections in Uganda is low voter turnout. It’s prevalent in general elections and there has been very low activity about the LC elections. Are you worried of the possibility of low voter turnout?
The thing about elections is that it is a matter of choice and free will.

Do I want to go out and participate or not? We can only appeal to the people to turn up in big numbers and vote for their people. And remember, the leaders we are meant to choose are fundamental to our day to lives as Ugandans because these are the people who are our first call point in case of any problem.
Secondly, LC 1s are the people who verify the issue of citizenship. They play a big role. That is why you see that when people are applying for National IDs, one of the requirements is that you must have a document authenticating your citizenship.

This is very important and, therefore, we are saying that Ugandans should turn up in large numbers and participate in electing their leaders. Of course, in most elections, it is difficult to have 90 per cent turnout for reasons known to the voters.
We are not only going to elect village chairpersons, but we are also going to constitute the village committees. After the chairperson has been elected, the chairperson picks from the residents of that village to constitute a committee and the residents have to confirm acceptance of the committee.

What is important is that not only are we electing the chairperson but we are also going to choose members to constitute committees.
The six members who constitute the committee must come from the members. That is why we are appealing to the people to turn up in large numbers. Don’t complain when the few who turn up vote someone who at the end of the day you think should not have been voted into office. The people should bear responsibility for the calibre of leaders that they will have.

There have been concerns by the Opposition that the EC is going about this election in a partisan manner. That, for instance, the elections were earlier scheduled for last year at the height of tension surrounding the Age Limit Bill and the EC connived with the NRM to go to court and fix a postponement?

People may have had those sentiments but that is completely untrue. The EC does not determine how court does its work. Secondly, the EC does not dictate to the citizens of this country what to do. Some citizens came up, exercised their rights, went to court and challenged the process that we had rolled out.

The courts issued an order and I can assure you that those orders disoriented us. If we had our choice as EC, we would have loved to have them. But as a law abiding institution, we had to obey the court orders.
The court order stopped the process on the eve of polling for village elections. We had already had nominations.
It is not true that the EC connived with those citizens or the courts. That is not true. Secondly, the matter that was raised has since been sorted out and we resumed the exercise.

I am wondering why the EC can be seen to have acted in favour of one group to the disadvantage of another group. All political parties and attendant stakeholders are notified equally.
We have been open and had delegations of political parties here. The other day we met with the FDC team led by the secretary general. We had frank discussions about the electoral processes in this country. That is a clear illustration that the EC does not act in a partisan way.

Talking of FDC, there is a letter by the FDC secretary general regarding the issue of EC refusing to nominate their candidates for LCs and Women Councils? Does that have any legal basis?
I think there was some kind of misunderstanding by our field officials on where our resumed field programme started from. And we have since cleared the air and said save for those who were declared unopposed but in all those areas where nominations are taking place, if there are people who have come up and want to be nominated, please allow them to do that.

We had an additional over 1,300 villages which had been added to the villages that we had last year. Fresh registration has to take place in those villages and fresh nominations. But also, since time has elapsed between when we carried out registrations last year and the time we have resumed the programme, so many variables have taken place.

Some people may have shif