Pallisa, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) observer team at the Gogonya by-election in Palisa has warned of the generally plummeting participation in election by citizens.
The observer team also called for a greater role of civilians in the stewarding elections. ” The stewarding of polls should not be singly for election administrators. This should be a role for all stakeholders including civic, formal and informal community entities –religious organisations, community leaders, media, political parties, the courts, as well as public and private relevant institutions,” said Crispin Kaheru of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC).
“If these don’t support election administration, then we will continue to witness low participation in electoral processes. These are mobilisational entities, but they also build confidence in elections depending on how objectively, positively and actively they engage in the process.”
NRM party’s Derick Orone was declared the winner of the Gogonyo County Parliamentary by-election.
Orone defeated his rival Joseph Okoboi Opolot of the National Unity Platform-NUP party with 19,199 votes against Opolot’s 519 votes.
The by-election attracted three candidates but two of the candidates who were nominated to contest announced that they had withdrawn from the race. They include Okoboi and independent candidate Issa Bantalib Taligola who officially announced his withdrawal during a rally attended by President Yoweri Museveni in Obutete and Kaukura sub-counties in Pallisa District.
It was a generally quiet election, according to reports from elections observers, as there were no visible tensions as witnessed in other elections.
“Locals went about their daily chores normally and occasionally trickled in to their respective polling stations to vote throughout the day. At the time of counting, locals converged around polling stations to witness the counting of the vote. Less than 2 hours after the closure of the polls, the EC tallying centre in Pallisa town was receiving results,” the UHRC observer report stated.
Given the dynamics around the official withdrawal of candidature of the independent candidate a few days to the election and the unclear participation of the NUP candidate, the election was primarily a hold of the NRM candidate.
“It was a characteristically ‘low steam’ poll; not as spirited as some of the previous ones. This particular by-election pointed to the generally plummeting participation in elections,” UHRC said.
UHRC stated that although historically by-elections are low-participation activities, there is urgent need to reinvigorate a general sense of active public participation in electoral processes.
“This can be done through removing the legal, structural and operational barriers to active participation. It is under this that as a country we should have a candid discussion around how we secure elections.”
UHRC added that, ” It might as well be time to consider walking away from intrusive policing of elections to discreet, intelligence-based security for our polls. Securing an election should mean maintaining a sense of safety for stakeholders to enable them to actively participate and not to interfere, obstruct or create an environment of anxiety. Equally so, actively participating in elections should not mean courting vehemence or violence.”