Complaints of pre-ticked ballots, faulty voting machines mar Kagoma by-election

Thursday May 11 2017
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People line up at Buwenge Sub-county headquarters polling station to cast their vote in the ongoing Kagoma by-election. Photo by Tausi Nyakato

Jinja - Despite some polling station receiving voting material beyond the required time as well as reported cases of a pre-ticked ballot paper, heavy police deployment, the country’s election prefect maintains that nothing is amiss.
According to the schedule, voting was supposed to begin at exactly 7am and close at 4pm.

However not all polling centres kept that time. Some polling stations were also forced to suspend voting for hours after the biometric machines failed to function despite earlier assurance by the chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi that everything was good to go.
According to Mr James Otim, a resident of Budondo sub-county, it emerged that voting some at polling stations started late.
He said: “In Buyala polling station “A” and Buyala polling station “C” residents started casting their votes at nine O’clock, because of the delay by the EC to deliver voting material in time.”
It was not long before another situation which the EC described as an error, triggered suspicion of mal-practice.

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Director of Operations Uganda Police Force, Mr Asuman Mugenyi, Kiira Regional Police Commander Mr Gerald Twishime issuing commands in Buwenge just hours before the Kagoma Member of Parliament by -elections currently ongoing. PHOTO BY DENIS EDEMA

An issuing officer at Buwenge polling station appeared to have pre-ticked a ballot paper before issuing it to a voter, triggering suspicion but the EC moved swiftly to clarify.

Speaking to Journalists at Kagoma, the EC spokesperson, Mr Jotham Taremwa clarified that it was an error that should not cause any alarm or panic.
He said: “A pen of one of the issuing officer slipped a little and kind of ticked an NRM candidate’s name.”
He continued: “But that was an error which was rectified immediately. The ballot paper will be considered invalid and will not count as a valid vote. Besides, this is just one case.”

As the EC was dealing with that situation another was unravelling in Butagaya sub-county.
For two-hours, voters in Kiranga polling station at Butagaya sub-county had to wait in the queue after voting came to halt following a breakdown of the biometric (voter) machine. By the time voting resumed the sun was already beginning to scorch.
However, so far all is generally well. Two candidates; the NRM Moses Walyomu and Alex Brandon Kintu have already cast their votes.


The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Mr Timothy Batuwa Lusala is expected to vote for himself later in the afternoon. It is unclear yet when the other candidate, Mr Muhammed Bidondole (Independent) will cast his vote.

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The Kagoma parliamentary seat fell vacant after the Court of Appeal nullified the result of the election following an appeal by Mr Kintu who was one of the contenders in the 2016 parliamentary race.

Mr Kintu stood as an independent but lost to Mr Walyomu. He then filed an election petition in court detailing election fraud manifested in the form of particularly voter bribery, something he said unjustly swung the result in favour of his rival.
The Court of Appeal agreed with his argument and in early March, a verdict nullifying the election was declared, resulting into the ongoing by-election.

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