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THE 14TH JANUARY POLLING DAY & THE HUGE LOGISTICAL DILEMMA AWAITING BYABAKAMA’S ELECTORAL BODY

By Otim Nape

Even when it has been at the fore front of calling for strict observance of the COVID19 rules strictly prohibiting large mass concentrations of people, Justice Simon Byabakama’s Electoral Commission is headed for a huge dilemma on the polling day which is January 14th 2021. Before even voters are factored in, each of the polling stations is going to have not less than 100 people that the EC will directly be responsible for.

And this is how this number comes about: there must be a presiding officer at each polling station and an assistant. These are supposed to have three other subordinates below them. This by implication means a minimum of 5 polling officials at each polling station. You then have the 11 presidential candidates each of whom is entitled to having two polling agents per polling station; overseeing his or her electoral interests before, during and after polling. This ideally leads to another 22 people at the polling station bringing the total number to 27 (EC’s 5 and the 22 polling agents for the 11 presidential candidates).

Yet that isn’t all. You have a multiplicity of MP candidates vying for directly elected MP Seats. In some areas you have as many as 10 candidates for that MP Seat. On the same day you have the election for the district Woman MP. Each of these is entitled to having two polling agents ideally to represent their electoral interests per polling station. To secure the polling environment, the EC is mandated to deploy at least 2 police constables at each of the polling stations.

All this means that, before you even think about thousands of voters queuing up, you are going to have so many people entitled to remaining congregated at a polling station throughout the day, a thing that will make compliance with COVID19 SOPs next to impossible and thereby escalating the risk of spread and new infections. And this being the COVID19 period, requiring heightened enforcement efforts, the EC might end up requiring more than just the 2 police constables. This will only make polling stations more congested and thereby rendering government’s wish or insistence on enforcing COVID regulations an impossibility.

Whereas it’s very likely some of the candidates, at whatever level, may never have the capacity to raise the required number of polling agents per polling station, the very able EC publicist Paul Bukenya says the fact that the 2021 poll is being held under a multiparty dispensation increases the remedial options available for the EC out of the impending dilemma.

“It’s something we are already thinking about and we might in the end not require that large number of polling agents per candidate. Because many candidates are sponsored by political parties, we can decide to have one or two agents representing each party at each polling station. That person becomes the one responsible to represent the interests of all candidates for that political party including the Presidential candidate, the Woman MP candidate and the one on the direct MP seat. It’s only the independent candidates who are going to remain tricky and unfortunately, they are very many. For instance, how do you have one agent representing several independent candidates? The thinking process is on and we shall find some way forward of course in consultation with all stakeholders,” Bukenya explained to Mulengera News in a Saturday interview. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).  

 

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