By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
Just days before the February 18 General Elections, claims persist that the voters register is bloated and that voting without voters cards will be chaotic. The Independent’s Mubatsi Asinja Habati spoke to Dr Badru Kiggundu, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission.
Is the Electoral Commission ready for the elections?
The Electoral Commission is prepared. It is getting tighter because the amendments to the laws to some particular elections came late and this puts more pressure on the roadmap but we are not complaining. We have secured the pledge of the government regarding supplementary funding which came through. This will ease our operations. I want to appeal to everyone to be tolerant. Everybody should accept the outcome of the elections. It is a culture we must adapt and inculcate.
Have you procured the ballot papers?
The procurement process is in advanced stages. Printing has commenced so they will be delivered on time. To enhance transparency, we have accredited representatives of political parties to go to factories where printing is carried out. They are busy arranging their own travel modalities. They chose Britain as the place for printing the ballots.
The voters’ register is said to be bloated with underage and ghost voters. Some population estimates put the number of Ugandans aged 18 at 12 million. How are you addressing these issues?
The cleaning exercise of the voters’ register ended. We did what is practically possible to ensure that the register and population will be a representative delivery of free and fair elections. The total number of voters stands at 13.95 million and this is a reduction from what it was from the voter update exercise. The reduction results from removal of the deceased, those illegally registered, multiple registrations, those who are below 18 years of age, which was quite intensive, and non-Ugandans. I cannot guarantee that everything is 100% all right.
The view in the public is that the 13.9 million voters you say you registered is such big a number. The Population Secretariat estimate that Ugandans who are aged 18 and above were 12 million by October last year. How do you reconcile this view?
The population is a moving figure. If they claim that the 13.9 million is very a high figure; would they reverse their feelings when we reported 15 million at the end of the registration? I’m happy because it tends to reflect what our predictions were. Our previous register had 10.5 million and we predicted that the new addition would be around 3.5 million bringing the total 14 million voters. That’s not to say that when were cleaning the voters’ register our target was to get 13.9 million. No, that’s what it actually turned out to be.
Why will people vote without voters’ cards this time?
People should not necessarily equate the process of registering with the acquisition of voters’ cards. We categorically stated that this new technology we were administering would ultimately lead to what constitutes a first phase in production and issuance of National Identity Cards. The data we have gathered from over 3 million voters is being transformed for the national identity cards.
Won’t voting without cards affect the transparency of the voting process?
Literally at every election ever since I have been here, there have always been calls and appeals to allow those who may have lost voters’ cards to vote. And it has always been granted. Also you have to remember that section 34(3) of the amended Parliamentary Elections Act provides that if you have no voter’s card but your particulars and photograph are on the national voters’ register you should not be denied to vote. Sub-section 3(a) provides that if you have a card but your particulars in the register reflect only your bio data, still you would not be denied to vote. So there is a legal provision for any doubting Thomas. Nobody will be denied to vote provided your particulars are in the national voters’ register.
At the religious conference on violence-free elections, you cautioned the youth against being misled into election-related violence. Do you see these elections turning violent?
Not necessarily. But of course you cannot underestimate the responsiveness of the youth not only in the election time. The youth are usually firebrand and they usually suffer the most during violence. I added my voice to that of religious leaders to appeal the youths to abide by the law. These are realities we cannot remain silent about.
When you examine the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast and the 2007 post election situation in Kenya, the heads of the election bodies like yourself have been blamed. Are you prepared to take responsibility for your actions in the conduct of this election?
I am prepared to take positive responsibility. I am responsible and I have never reneged on my responsibility. I will remain steadfast. I love my country. I love stability. I am peace loving. And I will do whatever it is to apply the provisions of the law. There should be no cause for alarm. It will be okay. Ugandans are peace loving. The rhetoric you hear in the streets will be quiet on the voting day as it is part of the political jargon. Violence is something we must not allow to arise because whenever there is violence it is the followers’ property that is destroyed not the instigators. The instigators are likely to have passports in time to find their way out faster; they may even have prepaid tickets and leave the drones to suffer.