President Museveni has backed the idea of holding ‘scientific’ elections in 2021 to prevent the spread of Coronavirus despite growing calls from opposition to hold conventional polls – complete with political rallies.
Museveni said holding public gatherings during the election campaigns risked spreading the novel virus in communities.
The opposition politicians including Bobi Wine on Monday denounced the idea of candidates only campaigning on radios and televisions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“…there is nothing like a scientific election. For us, we are going for a real election because a scientific election is not an election. The promise of our Constitution is a free and fair election,” said Bobi during today’s press conference.
The statements followed the Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Simon Byamukama’s announcement that “Mass rallies will not be allowed but campaigns will be conducted mainly through media.”
“Given the Covid-19 pandemic, and health risks involved and the expectations during the electoral activities, preparations and conduct of these elections will take different modes,” said Byamukama.
Speaking to the nation this Monday night, Museveni said the country was “entering a more dangerous phase” hence the need to take more precautions.
“With the politics, the Independent Electoral Commission, in consultation with the scientists, apparently, looked at three options, as far as the General and Local Government Elections that are due for early next year, are concerned,” said Museveni.
He said the three questions to be answered were: “If there is no vaccine or clear treatment for this virus by the time of the elections, can the Conventional Elections of mass rallies, processions, etc., be safely held? Can and should the elections be postponed?
Is there a hybrid that can be constitutionally used to hold the elections on time, but safely?”
Museveni said the Electoral Commission opted for the hybrid option because the danger was in the holding of public gatherings.
“If you eliminate those and messages of the contestants are passed on through the radios, TVs, socio-media, etc., the gathering for the elections themselves, can be safely managed with hand-washing, social-distancing (okweeha emyaanya ─ leaving gaps of the necessary metres between voters in line ─ a type of tonsemberera, otampika),” said Museveni.
“This would remove the uncertainty that would be created by the postponement of the elections but also ensure that elections are held safely. I call upon Ugandans to support this option because it can work if all concerned do their assignment diligently,” he emphasised.
However, according to Patricia Munabi Babiiha, the Executive Director of advocacy groups, Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), the media campaigns will alienate majority potential women leaders.
“The broadcast and online campaigns will alienate a majority of potential women leaders due to limited access to internet by most Ugandans, the unequal distribution of airtime on broadcast media and the very high costs for purchasing broadcast media airtime,” said Babiiha in a statement.
On his part, Byabakama said the Commission conducted a risk analysis, the implications of holding an election and instituted mitigation measures in line with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.
“We have also considered the need to preserve the health of the Citizens vis a vis their constitutional and democratic right to elect leaders of their choice as guaranteed under the Constitution, and come up with a plan that ensures minimal person-to-person contact during the implementation of the electoral process,” said the Electoral Commission boss.