By Faridah Lule
Elections are a process, not an event, every election comprises numerous elements and involves multiple institutions and actors throughout pre-election, Election Day and post-election periods, all of which affect the transparency, inclusiveness, accountability and competitiveness of the election this assertion is true to my understanding.
Before we went in for the 2016 general elections, many actors had raised concerns and made proposals for reforms but majority of the substantive reforms were not considered by Parliament, at that point, government promised to constitute a constitutional review commission to handle the reforms reason there was no time to debate and consider the many proposals. Instead, the government managed to sneak in a few reforms that were hurriedly passed and became effective; among these were, time for opening, closure and nomination fees.
The Government should know it’s not a request rather an obligation to the citizens and also uphold the rule of law. The Supreme Court in its ruling ordered the Attorney General to handle the reforms and gave it a timeline.
As interested actors, we have kept our hopes high and our prayer is that on the agenda of government business top priority will be to constitute a constitution review commission to start work before 2021. The minister of constitution affairs, Hon Otafiire Kahinda promised to have this commission constituted as soon as possible and that plans were underway.
I recall at one point, His Excellency President Museveni said there is need to have the electoral reforms when he was caught up in a scenario. “There is a need to review electoral laws because how do you bar me from contributing towards a development project? How do I go to church service and I don’t give God or give a gift? What kind of laws are these? That is going beyond…” just like the president Ugandans too think there is need for reforms and this was raised in the Citizen’s Compact for free and fair elections.
Well for the good of our country I request that the minister does not wait for the return of Christ to begin on the process. We as Ugandans have patiently waited for the reforms and for us; it’s the only way to have a level playing field if the electoral reforms are considered as suggested by different actors.
We don’t have to use nonviolent means to express what we feel is the right thing to do, we will wait impatiently for the minister in charge to spearhead the process and not to wait for a month or weeks to election and front their own proposed reforms but rather to follow the democratic path which is inclusive of all us.
We need to restore the integrity of the election process first by controlling and ending the vice that has defined Uganda’s politics which has turned out to be a business venture. Once the commission announces that there will be an election the candidates begin thinking of avenues to get money and the voters also get excited ready to receive their share. Commercialization of politics does not only kill the integrity of the elections but also undermines the quality of leadership presented.
I was not shocked when ACFM presented the results from their survey that indicated one Member of Parliament having spent a billion shilling in the last general elections. For the voters it has now come to my vote my money, and this was exhibited by voters in Rubanda who were sited around the polling station and vowed not to vote until they get money and whoever comes first will receive the vote.
Another survey was carried out by The Aga khan University, and it revealed that 74% of the youth are vulnerable to electoral bribery, with 39%saying they would only vote for a candidate who bribed them. We need to address the issue of electoral reforms to tame this vice and also level the playing field for all players.
Consistently it has been the practice of government to bring reforms last minute. That is the very reason why the chairperson Electoral commission stressed the need to have laws passed on time he urged parliament to speed up the amendment as well as the enactment of electoral laws and regulations and that this would go a long way in ensuring the 2016 general elections are freer and fairest than 2011 elections, he warned not let the amendments to electoral laws wait until it is too late. If we do not do it, we will have ourselves to blame.
The writer is the project Associate at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)