EC’s ‘scientific campaign, election’ is dead on arrival

Tuesday June 23 2020

 

By Nicholas Sengoba

For starters, it is possible to hold the so-called scientific election. The big ‘if’ here is, the conditions being in order everywhere.

That is if you have 100 per cent radio and television coverage in the entire country. People have access to mobile telephone and reliable Internet. Of course, electricity for all is a must at all times.

Because of the potential of spreading the infectious Covid-19 with increasing human contact in crowded areas, Uganda’s often ignominious Independent Electoral Commission has disingenuously come up with a roadmap for ‘scientific elections.’

Scientific elections will basically have no campaign rallies. A candidate reaches the people through radio, television, and the Internet, especially social media.

How many people have access to a phone that is properly charged with both battery power and airtime to receive messages at any time of their convenience?

How many of those who listen to a candidate on radio, but cannot read be able to match the photo of the candidate with the one on the ballot paper? Won’t those who have been there for ever like President Museveni and Dr Kizza Besigye have an advantage over the rookies in a supposedly free and fair election? Many of the television and radio stations are owned by politicians who are vying for office, will they allow their rivals to campaign on their platforms and charge them fairly for the airtime?

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If they do, will they have enough time to elucidate their plans to their voters? Will the over-enthusiastic regime enforcers like the police, LDUs, RDCs, etc, who act by default when stopping the Opposition from carrying out any political activity, have a change of heart?
Will these fellows allow say a candidate’s agent move all over the district distributing flyers and other material to popularise their candidate? Of what use will these flyers be to the illiterate?

What about those who are financially constrained and can’t print huge billboards to display their mugshots at vantage points in their constituencies, will they have a level playing field with the money bags many of whom have accumulated wealth corruptly? How will ballots be ferried to tally centres during the curfew?

If one attempts to answer these questions logically, they will realise that the election we are heading to will fail in as far as the intention of not only to being free and fair, but also being seen to be free and fair.

The arguments that if the elections are not held according to the timelines in the Constitution will cause a constitutional crisis are as good as the definition of bullshit.

We are living in unusual circumstances because of Covid-19. Many have lost jobs while others have taken pay cuts which is contrary to the constitutional right to work and receive fair compensation.

Our children are out of school and seated at home not because they lack fees or are on holiday, but because we have to save our lives from an infectious and highly fatal disease thus affecting their constitutional right to education.

People have their freedom of movement that is guaranteed by the Constitution, restricted by a curfew and that of association by the guidelines on social distancing. Others have died because there is no transport to take them to hospital, which contravenes their rights to life, and access to medical care as enshrined in the same Constitution.

Courts are not sitting normally thus compromising the right of litigants to be heard and receive justice in time and in an open tribunal.

If we have accepted to live with all this, then what is an election? Granted, elections have massive elements of procurement in them and this is an avenue for some with access and selfish intentions to illicitly profit from the taxpayer. They may not want this moment to pass.

Twitter:@nsengoba