Include voters in digital election debate

Monday July 13 2020

 

By John Kiwanuka

The past months have been marred by the digital election model controversy of holding elections. This comes just months away to the 2021 General Election.

The digital model as fronted by the Electoral Commission (EC) is based on preventing the spread of coronavirus by prohiting public gatherings.

While some people have called for the postponement of election until the situation normalises, others say the election must be held as demanded by the Constitution mandate.

The Constitution mandates that every after five years, there should be General Election in the country.

The Constitution guides that the election cycle can only be altered during a state of emergency. In such a case, elections shall be postponed for months.

This, therefore, calls for the intervention of all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, to debate the legality and morality concerns in such a pandemic situation.

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However, after observing that the EC is determined to hold digital elections, calls for postponement of the polls seems to have hit a snag.

This debate has largely focused on the inclusiveness of the media as the platform for campaigning and how political aspirants can access the media.

No or little attention has been paid to the inclusiveness of the voters, for whom the election is largely organised.

The EC’s decision not to allowing prisoners and Diaspora Ugandans to vote on time-related grounds, is only an indicator of efforts to accommodate the recommendations by civil society organisations.

The fate of those who moved to villages is unthought of. Much as eligible voters had an option to chose their preferred voting stations during the verification exercise of the voters register, many felt it easy and convenient to chose to vote from their then places of work and residence and not ancestral villages.

However, after the breakout of Covid-19, many people fled the city and other big towns to take refugee in the villages. It is unlikely that many of those will go back to their voting stations by early 2021 as recorded in the past update of the voters register. This big number, therefore, is likely to be locked out if the EC road map goes unchecked.

Every Ugandan aged 18 years and above with a national identity card, who is not in prison and abroad on the day of voting is eligible to cast their votes during the elections.
However, the freedom to exercise this right is limited to a particular voting station. With the current situation in the country in which many eligible voters have “relocated” to unexpectedly safer areas than their voting areas (stations), this sovereign and inalienable right to determine the form of governance of our country is likely to further be denied to many Ugandans at home.

This, therefore, serves to remind and request the election advocacy groups and other stakeholders including Uganda Governance Monitoring Group and CCEDU to engage the Electoral Commission and Parliament on this issue.

kjohnscob1992@gmail.com

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