President Museveni has said the decision to hold 2021 elections will depend on the advice of the scientists working to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Museveni’s message on the effects on Covid-19 was yesterday delivered by the Secretary General of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), Ms Justine Kasule Lumumba, to the Inter-party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) meeting where Justice Forum (Jeema) took over its leadership from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.
The IPOD platform brings together all political parties with representation in Parliament.
Ms Lumumba said major electoral activities have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the electoral calendar has been greatly disrupted.
“We in NRM are political players. We cannot take a decision and say elections will be at this time without the advice of the scientists. All the presidential directives that have been given so far have been based on the advice of scientists,” Ms Lumumba said.
“Equally when it comes to elections, it will depend on the numbers of Covid-19 patients as the tests go on and also most importantly the advice of scientist,” she added.
Ms Lumumba also challenged Jeema to prioritise a meeting between the IPOD members and the Electoral Commission officials to discuss alternative ways the elections can be conducted based on the recommendations from scientists.
“We expect Jeema to engage the EC but to also meet the scientists and understand them before a new programme is laid out. This will make sure that the people who vote us are alive,” Ms Lumumba said.
However, the FDC party president, Mr Patrick Amuriat Oboi, said it should not be scientists to determine the fate of the elections but stakeholders including the political parties.
“We should go in for these elections and I am sure that as FDC, we are going to win. Why should we postpone elections? There is no any law that permits the extension of elections. If the government wants to postpone elections, they should announce a state of emergency and conduct a referendum,” Mr Amuriat said.
He said political parties should be supported by the government to conduct campaigns using the media and also be allowed to do door-to-door campaign.
Mr Amuriat also suggested that the EC extends the voting time from 5pm when the voting ends to 6pm and create more polling stations to avoid overcrowding.
The deputy president of the Democratic Party (DP), Mr Mukasa Mbidde, told the meeting that elections are not “scientific expeditions” for scientists to decide. He said the NRM should respect the calendar programme for the next elections.
“We have had diseases like Malaria that have led to the death of Ugandans but we have never had an extension of elections.Covid-19 on the other hand has not led to the death of any Ugandans in the country so why should we panic?” Mr Mbidde asked.
The president of Jeema, Mr Asuman Basalirwa, said elections are guided by the Constitution and other electoral laws and it should not be scientists to determine how, when and who should contest for elections.
“President Museveni and scientists can only just advise but cannot determine the calendar. We should utilise the current measure like wearing facemasks, social distancing and washing our hands to conduct the elections,” Mr Basalirwa said.
“It is not only Uganda that is going to conduct elections during the pandemic. Other countries like Burundi and Mali have conducted elections so we should benchmark,” he added.
Meanwhile, the representative of the Netherlands Multi-party Democracy, Mr Frank Rusa, said the parties should work together and find means of conducting the forthcoming elections to promote democracy in the country.
He also advised Jeema to ensure that the programmes that were not implemented by the FDC like holding the IPOD summit and discussing the amendment of the restrictive Public Order Management Act due to coronavirus are fulfilled.