The Chief Magistrate’s Court in Lira City has thrown out an application that sought a vote recount in the disputed parliamentary election in Kwania County, Kwania District.
Mr Innocent David Omara of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) party, had applied to court seeking a vote recount after losing the January 14 election to Mr Tony Ayo of the National Resistance Movement.
Mr Ayo garnered 8,260 votes against Mr Omara’s 8,036 votes. Other contenders were Mr Andrew Odur Adiga (FDC) who polled 404, and independents Nelson Adupa (2,668) Jimmy Okello Ecun (2,956) Emmanuel Ogwal Agweno (215)and Geoffrey Ogutu (1,162).
Mr Omara claimed the high number of votes declared invalid by the second respondent (Electoral Commission) totalled 809 votes, and if recounted, could alter the result in his favour.
He also contended that there were “arithmetic errors” in the declaration of result (DR) form used to declare Mr Ayo winner.
During the court session last Friday, the applicant’s lawyer, Mr Mike Abwang Otim, asked the court to issue an order for a vote recount in Kwania County with costs.
He also presented a payment receipt issued to his client by the Apac Magistrate’s Court.
The document showed payment of Shs600,000 in respect for security to court in an application for a vote recount. However, the EC legal team was absent.
This prompted Mr Abwang to ask Kwania returning officer, Mr Tom Oteitei, on whether he would have a problem with the vote recount.
Mr Oteitei responded: “We received the papers a little late at the headquarters and they couldn’t prepare enough to travel and attend the court proceeding. They (Electoral Commission legal team) said they will be available on Monday in court.”
He, however, added that he would have no problem in recounting the ballots if an order was issued.
Mr Abwang said the fact that the respondent (Mr Ayo) opted to file a defence clearly shows there were mass irregularities that he wanted to cover up.
Mr Abwang presented a DR form for Odyedo Polling Station in Nambieso Sub-county showing that the EC delivered fewer ballot papers than the total number of votes cast.
He questioned where the returning officer obtained the extra ballot papers.
However, Mr Gabriel Ojire, the defence lawyer, said the figures that the applicant was basing on were “merely alternated” during data entry.
“These were just mere errors when the figures were being entered into the DR forms. The applicant had also not provided any grounds of vote recount and he should instead file an election petition,” he said .
After hearing both sides, the Lira Chief Magistrate, Ms Janeva Natukunda, quashed the application without costs, saying granting a vote recount would not correct the errors in the DR forms.
“The declaration forms presented before me contain signatures of the agents of the applicant and presiding officers showing they saw and agreed the figures were correct. I had the opportunity to look at all the evidence provided to this court,” Ms Natukunda said.
“Out of 24 polling stations that the applicant was seeking vote recount, only 10 declaration forms were provided to this court. The forms clearly show there were arithmetic errors by the presiding officers,” she added.
Mr Omara said his next step of action would depend on his party.
Mr Ayo said the ruling served the interest of his constituents.
“I had earlier advised him (Mr Omara) to withdraw this application since I knew it would be a waste of time,” he told Daily Monitor.