The Electoral Commission has responded to opposition political parties and politicians who have been complaining about the revised electoral roadmap that was launched by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday.
The roadmap which banned political rallies and ordered politicians to campaign through media in the 2021 general elections was dismissed by opposition politicians including DP President Nobert Mao, FDC’s Kizza Besigye, People Power’s Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine).
These claim they as stakeholders were never consulted.
While appearing on NBS TV on Wednesday morning, the Electoral Commission spokesperson Jotham Taremwa said Electoral Commission does not require to first consult stakeholders before issuing a roadmap.
“When Electoral Commission is preparing an electoral program, it does not require to subject that decision to anyone’s opinion. We do not require anybody’s permission as per Article 61 of the Constitution to tell us that now Electoral Commission you can release a program or you should not release a program. To issue a roadmap or not is not a matter for consultation. It is a matter that the Constitution has answered,” said Taremwa.
He instead noted that when a program is released, it can then be subjected to stakeholders for discussion and then perhaps the alterations can be done.
“How it is done, release a program that abides with the law and subject it to public discussion then you can get public’s amendments. Don’t stand here and say Electoral Commission says there is no need for consultations. That is not our position. Our position is, let’s issue specific guidelines but let’s share these guidelines as widely as possible with stakeholders. Let’s have stakeholders’ input so that it can improve our management of these processes.”
Although all usual functions such as conferences, burials, weddings among others have been halted by COVID-19 crisis, Taremwa said the Constitution Commands Electoral Commission to organize elections.
“It’s a Constitutional command that elections should take place. That command has not been changed. Even if they changed it we would still have another election. So in the event that the Constitution demands Electoral Commission to organize elections and have a new Government in place after 5 years, what do you want Electoral Commission to do?” He asked.
Taremwa defended the revised roadmap unveiled by EC on Tuesday saying that some countries such as Benin which held elections amidst COVID-19 crisis used a similar approach.
“It is not unique. So in the event that we have to have an election, how do we go about it and comply with Government of Uganda and World Health Organization guidelines. That is why we said, organize an election as per the constitutional command but ensure that people who are going to participate in those elections are safe and that is why we came up with these guidelines. They may look stringent; they may look unfavorable but do you have better options that you think Electoral Commission has not looked at? He asked.
To some media houses that are owned by politicians and cannot give coverage to their political opponents, Taremwa said the EC will consider to have a meeting with Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, UCC, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Uganda Media Council to figure out possible ways how it can be handled.
The Kampala Central MP Mohammed Nsereko agreed with Taremwa that EC was commanded by the Constitution to release a program but noted that the exercise is advantageous to incumbents and disadvantageous to new entrants who are perhaps not popular.
Nsereko also noted that the exercise of campaigning through the media will be unfavorable to many especially on positions that will attract a multitude of contestants.
“If in Kampala Central we are going to be 18 (contestants), which TV or radio station will be able to host all of us? It will be highly commercialized,” he said.