Revisiting the democracy construct: Uganda's 2016 election observation report launched.

The Citizens Elections Observers Network in Uganda (CEON-U) launched its report on Uganda’s 2016 General Elections:  “Revisiting the Democracy Construct”, with a call on the Government to revamp the Electoral Commission and allow for electoral reforms if Uganda’s democracy should grow. The report was launched on Thursday, June 30, at Hotel Africana.

While launching the report, the chief guest HE. Mogens Pedersen, Ambassador of Denmark to Uganda and DGF Board Chair, reiterated the key report recommendations especially the need for new commissioners to be elected for the Electoral Commission, since it’s one of the main institutions for the development and growth of electoral democracy in the country.  He applauded the CEON Uganda consortium for implementing an unprecedented joint effort that produced a good number of periodical reports on the conduct of the 2016 general elections that kept the public and various stakeholders informed in a timely way of various developments around the elections. He called on stakeholders including the Government of Uganda, the Electoral Commission, the Uganda Police, Political Parties, Civil society organizations and all Citizens of Uganda to pay close attention to their findings and recommendations with a view to taking the necessary steps to improve the conduct of elections in the future.

 Jo-Lesser-Oltheten, USAID Deputy Mission Director also pointed out important considerations for the media that were clearly pointed out in the report. She particularly underscored the value of upholding media freedom. “The whole issue of the freedom of press is important. As you know, social media was shut down during Election Day and also closed down later when it came to the inauguration of the president. Besides this, we have also seen quite a lot of acts of intimidation of journalists and media so there have to be clear guidelines of the behaviour of the Police”.  She said.

The Observation report reflects on the process and substance of the February 18 presidential and parliamentary election, as well as the local government elections which followed. It points out issues in the pre-election period that affected the February and March elections.  It also makes recommendations to the various stakeholders in respect to improvement of subsequent electoral processes.

 According to Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, the Executive Director, Foundation For Human Rights Initiative and Chairperson CEON-U Steering Committee, the atmosphere preceding the February 18 elections was  characterised by deep-seated mistrust of the Electoral Commission, lack of independence and impartiality of security agencies, and weakening rule of law. “Another major factor that affected the 2016 elections was the increase in fees too late into the electoral cycle. There was late legislation on nomination fees, which were hiked for presidential candidates from ugx 8million to ugx 20million and for parliamentary candidates from ugx 200,000 to ugx 3million.There were no clear guidelines on the documents a prospective contestant was required to present at nomination especially for parliamentary and local government elections. This has led to the numerous court petitions over academic documents in the post-election period. ” He noted. He argued that the lack of transparency in elections and transmission of the election results undermined the legitimacy and acceptability of the outcomes.

Among others, the report recommends that the Electoral Commission gives the citizenry a chance for greater participation in counting, tallying, and tabulation of results.  It notes that observers should be present at all levels of transmission of results with clear guidelines to follow through the process. There should also be a transparent display of the flow of results at all tabulation centres. The report also demands for an explicit provision on gender balance, one that ensures that both women and men are given equal opportunity to participate in the management and administration of elections.