89% Ugandans want electoral reforms – poll

Electoral Commission chairperson Badru Kiggundu (C) and his deputy Sam Rwakoojo (L) at Parliament recently . Photo by Faiswal Kasirye

Nearly nine out of every 10 Ugandans would like to see a change in at least one aspect of the electoral system ahead of next year’s election, a poll by Afrobarometer, a reputable Africa-wide firm,
shows. The poll results come with just a month left to nominations for next year’s elections and amidst protests by different groups that the
government has disregarded electoral reform proposals by civil society and opposition groups. The results were released Friday under the theme “Disgruntled opposition or disillusioned democrats: Who is for electoral reforms in Uganda?”

The poll was conducted between May 8 and May 26, but the results will be released in four phases, this being the first. Dr Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, the Afrobarometer lead investigator for the poll, said
that another batch of results will be released on Tuesday, with the remaining two expected in September and October, respectively. The theme of the first batch of the poll results, Dr Golooba-Mutebi
said, “was an indirect response to supporters of NRM that it is the ‘disgruntled’ opposition members who were demanding for electoral reforms.”

The government disregarded reform proposals dubbed “The citizens’ compact on free and fair elections” drawn by a combination of civil society and opposition members last November. Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the minister for the presidency and Kampala Capital City Authority, doubted the accuracy of the results Friday, saying that Ugandans have confidence in the electoral system as
demonstrated in their aspiration to vote next year. “If you see the enthusiasm Ugandans show while registering, updating and reviewing their registration particulars and finally the voter turnout,” Mr Tumwebaze said, “you will clearly and without a doubt ...know the confidence Ugandans have in the electoral process and the institutions in charge.”

What the people say

Afrobarometer put the following question to those interviewed: “In preparation for 2016 general elections, political parties and civil society organisations have suggested a number of electoral reforms. We
would like to hear your views on a number of the proposed electoral reforms. Do you agree or disagree with the following suggestions for electoral reforms ahead of the 2016 general elections in Uganda?”

The options included banning candidates found guilty of vote-buying from contesting in future elections, stopping the president from appointing members of the Electoral Commission, declaring all election
results at constituency level, barring voters who require special assistance from voting and requiring presidential candidates to name their running mates.

More than half of those interviewed, 57 per cent, said that the president should stop appointing members of the Electoral Commission, while 86 per cent wanted candidates convicted of vote-buying barred
from running in any elections for at least five years. Eight out of ten respondents wanted election results to be declared at the constituency level, while 55 per cent said that presidential
candidates should be required to name their running mates before the elections.

In answering the question above, Afrobarometer said that 89 per cent of the respondents had at least one issue which they wanted changed regarding the conduct of elections. According to the press release announcing the poll results Afrobarometer said that 49 per cent of those interviewed said that voters were bribed during elections, 27 per cent said voters were threatened with violence at the polls, while 20 per cent said that the opposition were effectively prevented from challenging for power. Almost half of the respondents (48 per cent) said that the votes are not always counted fairly, while only 49 per cent said that electionsensure that members of Parliament effectively. Some 45 per cent said that elections do not enable voters to remove non-performing leaders from office.

These being partial results, some of the questions which were put tothe respondents were not released, and neither was the data set. Support for elections high Despite their misgivings about the conduct of elections, however, the poll found that a big majority of Ugandans (87 per cent) view elections as the best way to choose leaders. Based on this, the pollster concluded that there is “a gap between
popular demand for and actual supply of high-quality elections,” which the firm said “may help explain majority support for a number of
proposed electoral reforms.” The poll covered 2,400 respondents, the highest number Afrobarometer surveys for any of the 30 African countries in which it conducts polls. Afrobarometer entered the polling business in Africa in 1999 and conducted its maiden survey in Uganda in 2000.

It followed up with polls in 2002, 2005, 2008, and 2012. In December2010, the polling firm projected that President Museveni would win the
2011 election with 66 per cent of the vote, inviting criticism from the opposition. In March 2011, Mr Museveni was declared winner with 68 per cent, which was within the poll’s margin of error of +/-3.

The Margin of error of the current poll was slashed to +/-2 with a 95 per cent level of confidence, probably due to the increase in the number of respondents interviewed. Afrobarometer previously polled 2000 respondents.
The poll was conducted by Hatchile Consult Ltd, which is the current Afrobarometer partner in Uganda. Most of the recent Afrobarometer polls were conducted by Wilsken Agencies of Mr Robert Sentamu. Dr Golooba-Mutebi, the llead investigator for Hatchile Consult, is a social researcher who formerly worked at Makerere Institute of Social

The current round of Afrobarometer polls across Africa is funded by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom and the United States Agency for International Development. The other financiers are World Bank, the Institute for Security Studies (South Africa), United States Institute of Peace, Transparency International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Duke University China Research Center.