Opinion | Electoral democracy – These are the reforms Uganda needs By Ken Lukyamuzi

Posted April 21, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Opinion ~ 3,511 views



“Electoral democracy” denotes free elections which in law symbolizes a political system which guarantees each voter a right to vote according to his or her conscience.

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, clarified that there were two main aspects of freedom: being ruled and ruling in turn. In Uganda, general elections are held at the end of every five years in the areas of local government, Parliament and the presidency.

In the 1995 Constitution, there are specific areas which call for the effect of electoral reforms in view of what has been happening for the last 18 years.

The preamble: “We the people of Uganda, recalling our history which has been characterised by political and constitutional instabilityand recognising our struggle against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation…,

“Do hereby, in and through this Constituent Assembly, solemnly adopt, enact and give to ourselves and our posterity, this Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, this 22nd day of September, in the year 1995.”

The above excerpts in the preamble are a lamentation of the cause of the bush war in Luweero. President Museveni, and his crew of 27, waged a protracted war in Luweero in open protest over the rigged elections in 1980 during the Muwanga regime.

Article (I) of the Constitution briefly states that all power belongs to the people…Article 1 (4) adds: “the people shall express their will and consent on who shall govern them and how they should be governed, through regular, free and fair elections of their representatives”.

The crooked nature of elections held since 1996 hardly demonstrates that Ugandans have learnt any lessons related to misrule and rigged elections.
If the Luweero initiative is still unaccomplished, the people can still go back to the bush to enforce their objectives. But is it necessary to go back to the bush?

Here is the need for electoral reforms:

1. Free elections imply the opening of free expression of ideas, movement and access to the electorates by all stakeholders before and after the elections. A meaningful election in 2016 cannot be held in the presence of the Public Order Management Act 2013. Such a law would suffocate the candidates and the electorate. It should be repealed.

2. The whole Electoral Commission (EC) must be overhauled and disbanded to create room for an independent and impartial EC. The known key players in the political game – political parties – must have a say to propose how best the independent EC should be constituted. The overhaul should be done in time to prepare a fresh voters’ register free from manipulation.

4. The EC, besides lacking independence and impartiality, is badly managed. It lacks technical experts, and should by now have gone electronic. Worst still, it is used as a servant of the state to manipulate electoral results at its convenience. A lot of such errors could be avoided if the presidential term limits under Article 105, of the Constitution could be re-instated.

5. The proposed National identity card programme should be put to a halt to enable Parliament address the following-

(a) If the identity cards will also serve as voters’ cards, this calls for political parties to participate in the programme by way of monitoring the exercise.

(b) The term of office for the key players (LC officials) in identifying people in the ID registration exercise has already expired. That means that the LC chairpersons no longer have the locus standi to identify a village member from one who is not.

There is need for a law to be put in place to state the requirements for registering Ugandan citizens as the process of doing so is also going to serve as a voter’s programme. We must protect our citizenship from infiltration by non-Ugandans.

The courts of law [need to note]:
1. All claims from the aggrieved parties during and after elections should be heard expeditiously in answer to the contents of Article 28(1) of the Constitution. Justice delayed is justice denied.

2. Delayed by-elections are painful – on top of being unconstitutional – a case in point is the Luweero district elections. Hon Nambooze’s by-election was held eight months to the 2011 general elections.

3. The Supreme court has been doing a wonderful job and has tried to act impartially enough to avoid shame over the issue of judgments which cannot internationally stand the test of time.

However, in the case of Dr Kizza Besigye v Y K Museveni and Electoral Commission (2006), there are many unanswered questions.

Court acknowledged the mess and vote rigging that characterised the presidential elections and all the errors made at various polling stations, but held that the errors made were not substantial enough to overturn the final results of the elections. Such a ruling can be dangerous. Wrongdoing is not based on a number of offences committed.

That assessment would not help Uganda get over its electoral errors.

The writer is the Member of Parliament for Lubaga South.

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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