By Flavia Nassaka
As the country warms up for the 2016 elections, the Electoral Commission (EC) on April 01 released the revised roadmap for the 2016 elections after the initial one being released two years ago. The new roadmap which highlights nomination and election dates comes amidst demands for electoral reforms by members of the opposition and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
According to the roadmap, from April 07 to 30, there will be a general update of the voters’ register which will be carried out at all update stations in the various parishes. This is intended in addition to ruling out errors to register eligible voters who do not appear on the list and those who want to be transferred to other voting stations among others.
A statement signed by Joseph Biribonwa, the acting chairman of EC indicated that the body has already extracted information from the National Identification Register for purposes of compiling and updating the National Voters’ Register. This is in line with the recently passed Registration of Persons law which provides for the mandatory registration of citizens of Uganda, the establishment of a national Identification Register and a National Registration and Identification Authority.
However, Mathias Nsubuga, the Secretary General of the Democratic Party (DP) called the release of a revised roadmap unreasonable saying that it would be wastage of resources in an event that some of the highlighted events are deemed void by the reforms. Like Nsubuga, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)’s John Kikinyogo holds a feeling that the roadmap will not change anything especially with the reforms being postponed every time and again. “May be that roadmap is meant to guide the NRM. For us, without reforms we won’t go to the polls so having a plan is unnecessary”.
Responding to the issue of electoral reforms, Paul Bukenya, a Public Relations official at EC said that they could not wait for the reforms for them to prepare for the next elections since they do not know what will change and what will not. He said in this process they were guided by the existing laws adding that the EC too needs the reforms but cannot wait for the government because time is running out. He said they would want government to implement the reforms which they submitted last year. Among their demands is for them to be given more powers to penalise candidates who violate electoral regulations.
Arthur Bainomugisha of the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) agrees. Though he has been behind the push for reforms, he thinks the roadmap will help in planning purposes since they will be able to know the number of people expected to vote, which CSOs will help in civic education, and which observers will be present. He says these are issues that will be needed whether reforms are made or not. He says such issues could also be considered when rating whether the election was free and fair.
Meanwhile, new Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi recently announced that the reforms will be ready in May.
However, the roadmap does not show the exact polling dates for the different categories of aspirants though it shows they will be conducted between February 12 and March 12, 2016.