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Court dismisses applications seeking virtual campaign ban

The lawyer representing Electoral Commission Ntanbirweki Kandebe addressing journalists at High Court after court ruling. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The two consolidated applications seeking to quash a ban on open-air campaigns have been thrown out by the High Court in Kampala.

The applications filed separately by Dr Emmanuel Diini and presidential aspirant Joseph Kabuleta, came after the Electoral Commission announced that persons campaigning for political offices would not be allowed to hold open-air campaigns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the commission advised aspirants to use virtual platforms to reach their constituents.

But Kabuleta argued that the guidelines were unrealistic and contravened provisions of the Parliamentary, Presidential and Electoral Commissions Act. They added that by banning open-air campaigns, the commission is unjustifiably restricting freedom of speech and imposing unconstitutional limitations on the public.

The Electoral Commission asked the court to dismiss the matter on grounds that the applications were filed wrongly before the High Court. The then EC secretary Sam Rwakoojo stated that the applicants had failed to exhaust the existing remedies before rushing to court.

Today, the High Court Judge Esta Nambayo upheld the objection raised by the Electoral Commission and dismissed the applications. She said that the law provides that complaints against any alleged irregularity that comes before or within the electoral process should only go to the Court after failing to get justice from the Electoral Commission.

She added that by the time the matter was taken to the court, the electoral commission had not yet issued guidelines for the virtual campaigns. The guidelines were issued on June 16, according to the EC roadmap.

The applicant’s lawyers led by Daniel Walyemera had asked the court to send the file to the Constitutional Court for interpretation of the issues in the petitions. But Justice Nambayo rejected the prayer on account that there was nothing constitutional to interpret.

The lawyers said they are plotting the next course of action.

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