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CCEDU wants special law on 2021 polls

A delegation from CCEDU led by Miria Matembe appearing before the Parliamentary Legal Committee, as part of the stakeholders engagement with Parliament on the proposed 2021 general elections road map. PHOTO via @pwatchug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) wants the 2021 elections postponed.

CCEDU officials led by the Board chairperson Miria Matembe on Thursday told MPs sitting on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that given the guidelines by the Electoral Commission, Ugandans cannot have a credible election.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee started interfacing with different political players on the revised election road map on Wednesday.

“The preference for CCEDU is for elections to be postponed if they cannot be held without open-air campaigns. Digital campaigns cannot deliver a transparent election under the current media environment where owners have different agendas,” said Matembe.

Matembe was responding to a challenge from several MPs who called on CCEDU to make a clear stand and provide recommendations regarding the viability of elections under the newly revised election road map which among others banned open-air campaigns and instead requites candidates to carry out digital campaigns.

The former Minister for Ethics and Integrity wondered why the government does not view the Covid-19 pandemic as an emergency which can lead to the postponement of the polls.

Her statement followed a presentation by the CCEDU coordinator Charity Ahimbisibwe who said that if the government decides to hold elections in the current times, there should be a review and harmonization of several laws to guarantee a transparent and credible election in 2021.

The Kira municipality MP Semujju Nganda pressed CCEDU to make a direct recommendation on whether to go ahead with the elections or postpone them altogether.

In her presentation, Ahimbisibwe said that the revised road map contradicts almost all electoral laws existing in Uganda and advised that Uganda borrows a leaf from countries like Singapore and Benin which developed special laws on Covid-19 designed to ensure credible elections amidst the pandemic.

She explained that in both countries which parliament should benchmark on, the temporary Bills were passed to ensure an electoral process that safeguards the health and safety of citizens as well as promotes the political rights of all stakeholders.

“It should be emphasized that the bill should only work for 2021 general elections. That instrument would be temporary. And it should be noted that in all countries where elections were conducted following the Standard Operation Procedures, the voter turn up was low.” Ahimbisibwe added.

Ahimbisibwe also noted that civic and voter education has been non-existent six months to the election, a situation that affects the ability of voters to make informed choices.

Another aspect of the road map that CCEDU finds problematic is the time frame within which to carry out several activities, she has cited the time frame for party primaries which has been reduced from 4 months to 1 month.

“One month allotted to political parties to conduct party primaries is too short. The exercise was meant to be conducted in four months,” she said.

Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa noted that the limitations of freedoms can only be allowed under the state of emergency. He tasked CCEDU to explain why advocacy groups have shied away from calling for a state of emergency.

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