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MPs caution against double standards as NRM opts for lining up

Voters line up to vote at a polling station in Kampala

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  A section of Members of Parliament has asked the government to open up especially for the electoral period after the National Resistance Movement (NRM) approved lining up behind candidates as a voting option for its party primaries.

According to the ruling party’s roadmap which was released on Friday, voting for all party positions will be done by lining behind candidates. For many, this is seen as a contradiction to guidelines on social distancing, the basis of which the Electoral Commission recommended virtual campaigns.

Several legislators have welcomed the move, saying the NRM’s decision is a message that the country should open up for elections. They, however, warn that the government should not apply different standards to the opposition if they chose to follow the same direction.

Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa says that the government needs to draw strategies for social distancing and open up to enable Ugandans to enjoy their rights and freedoms during the electoral process, and instead. He says that the government should not be seen to be applying double standards during this election period.

But the leader of opposition in Parliament Betty Aol Ochan said that lining up is “attempted murder, and all those who would be lining up and participating in such a process should be arrested. Aol, however, says that the connotation can only be erased by opening up and lifting all restrictions.

“Since Ministers have been the first to violate the social distancing principles and have started campaigning, let the country be opened up for elections,” Aol said in a phone interview. Similarly, Erute  North MP Charles Angiro Gutumoi says that lining up behind candidates could be one of the fastest ways COVID-19 could spread. 

Atim Joy Ongom, the Lira Woman MP says that people cannot get limited to campaigning on media, and then the NRM decides to line up to elect candidates. 

Simon Oyet, the Nwoya County MP says the move by the NRM is an open declaration that virtual campaigns and elections are not possible even in the wake of COVID-19.  He says that having hundreds of people lining up behind candidates is very risky. 

But NRM MPs say that social distancing is possible. Kabarole woman MP Sylvia Rwabogo says that the decision cannot in any way affect the fight against COVID-19 as long they observe the standard operating procedures.  Bunyole west MP James Waluswaka emphasises the possibility for social distancing especially in rural constituencies with enough space.

Jothan Talemwa, the Electoral Commission Spokesperson says the lining up is a welcome process and other parties could do the same. 

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