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Voter education flaws stir queries on EC ability to deliver free and fair polls

A voter ticks his ballot during the 2016 presidential election. FILE PHOTO

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandan citizens are concerned about the absence of civic and voter education in the run-up to the 2021 general election. They are concerned that many of the activities taking place today are unknown to the majority of the population yet they are the pivot upon which the entire exercise rotates.

Voter education usually takes place before the start of the election cycle to purposely assist the election administration in its task of delivering a free, fair, efficient and cost-effective election. It encompasses the basic voter information that every voter must have in order to arrive prepared at the voting station and vote on the dedicated polling days.

Suleiman Kaggwa, a voter in Kampala central division feels there is an information vacuum where people are not aware of the changes in the election process let alone understanding the revised roadmap that was recently released by the Electoral Commission.

Kaggwa argues that people need to understand the basics of virtual campaigns and what is expected of them since this is the first time in the history of the country that there will be no campaign rallies or where physical contact between the candidates and their voters.

He cautions that if this is not addressed now, it will have far-reaching effects on the outcome of the 2021 elections.

23-year old Jovia Nalwoga, a voter in Nama village, Mukono district does not know when the election will take place but adds that she thinks votes for presidential candidates will be cast through the internet.

Susan Muhebwa, a voter from Lusanja village is concerned that while the National Resistance Movement (NRM) leaders and their supporters ‘are allowed’ to conduct consultative meetings without disruption, opposition politicians and their supporters are harassed by police and other security agencies.

But Isa Sekitto, a member of the Democratic Party says that the Electoral Commission is deliberately avoiding voter education to keep Ugandans in the dark. He says that one just has to be a powerful candidate to win an election even when it is not free and fair.

EC spokesperson Paul Bukenya says they are vetting 31 non-government organizations (NGOs) that want to carry out voter education, a process which involves security vetting, to ensure that all players are non-partisan and registered with the National NGO Bureau.

Bukenya, adds that elections will be held under the hybrid system with both media channels and consultative meetings, with limited human interactions.



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