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FATE OF ONE MILLION YOUNG VOTERS & THREE KEY CHANGES ANNOUNCED BY EC BOSS BYABAKAMA

By Mulengera Reporter

The Electoral Commission, led by its Chairperson Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, has made new decisions regarding the 2021 general elections.

Byabakama and his team, that included Commission Secretary Sam Rwakoojo, and member Stephen Tashobya, announced the changes as they met MPs on the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Tuesday in Kampala.

The decisions of the Commission are intended to bring sanity and certainty to the electoral process, according to the EC bosses.

NOMINATIONS EXTENDED

One of these new changes touches on the dates of nomination of candidates who will contest in presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. Earlier scheduled for August, according to the EC Roadmap, the nominations have now been moved by a period of two months to early October 2020.

MPs and several pundits had expressed worry that the nomination would throw the country into early campaign mood that could affect the economy, especially given the challenge of investors reluctance to inject their cash in projects due to the uncertainty that comes with Uganda’s election seasons.

“We acknowledge that we should not take the country into a long time of politicking and electioneering,” said Byabakama.

FATE OF ONE MILLION YOUNG VOTERS

The MPs accused the EC of disenfranchising voters who will turn 18 by the time of the elections contrary to Constitutional provisions that had set voting age at 18.

But Justice Byabakama’s response has dimmed all flickers of hope for the unregistered voters who still expected to participate in next year’s elections.

“We have given exhaustive and careful consideration to that request. We haven’t been able to [grant] that request for reasons contained in our presentation,” said Byabakama.

Over one million Ugandans are expected to have turned 18 in the period between the cutoff date of registration of new voters in December 2019 to election dates in early 2021.

According to Leonard Mulekwah, the director of operations at the EC, another round of voter registration would be difficult for the commission since administrative units had increased in the five-year period that started after the 2016 election. Mulekwah added that a fresh exercise would breed uncertainty, with Ugandans questioning the cleanness of the register.

EARLY CAMPAIGNS

The MPs had also complained to the EC that political campaigns had started in their constituencies and their opponents were taking advantage of every local event.

“Because there is no law, down in our constituencies, our opponents are busy distributing posters and mobilizing masses while taking advantage of every event,” said Veronica Eragu Bichetero, the Kaberamaido District Woman Representative (NRM).

Committee Chairperson Jacob Oboth Oboth also complained: “If you go to my constituency, you can think that voting is on the next day. The law should put in place penalties for defaulters even if one is an incumbent.”

CONSULTATIONS

As expected, the MPs also grilled Byabakama on the issue of consultations. MPs Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East-DP) and Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality-Jeema) expressed concerns over the blockage of consultation meetings of MP Robert Kyagulanyi of the People Power pressure group.

“The law does not capture what consultations entail; as we speak it is difficult to consult if you want to contest for presidency because police will block you,” said Sseggona, further castigating police for “partisan behavior.”

“By their [police’s] conduct, they have annexed themselves to the [ruling] National Resistance Movement.”

Basalirwa added: “I think there is a dilemma; you cannot ask the Electoral Commission to explain what consultations entail and that is why Police behaves like that.”

As a way of handling this matter, the MPs and EC officials agreed that the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, led by Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, should come up with guidelines on early campaigns and consultations within two months.  (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

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