KAMPALA, Uganda, Feb. 20 /CNW/ - The Commonwealth Observer Group issued
an interim statement after the Ugandan presidential and parliamentary
elections, reporting that it was concerned by the lack of a level
playing field, the use of money, and abuse of incumbency in the
Dame Billie Miller, head of the group and a former deputy prime minister
of Barbados, outlined their findings below:
There was a largely peaceful campaign and a reasonably calm Election Day
in most areas but regrettably marred by localised incidents of
Some serious concerns remain which mirror findings highlighted after the
2006 elections. Of particular note is the lack of a level playing field
and the "commercialisation of politics", both of which will need to be
It is encouraging that during the election campaign basic freedoms,
including freedom of association, freedom of movement and assembly,
were generally provided for.
The ruling party in Uganda is by far the largest and best-resourced
party and following many years in power, elements of the state
structure are synonymous with the party. Further, reports regarding the
"commercialisation of politics" by the distribution of vast amounts of
money and gifts are most disturbing.
The EC undertook to improve the voter register with an extensive update
and cleaning exercise aided by the use of Information Technology.
Overall the register shows some improvement, but it is clear that it
remains a work-in-progress with some names still missing and some
voters lacking awareness of their place of poll. It is regrettable that
the National Identification Card was not made ready for use during
On the day of the elections, our teams reported that in most areas the
voting process proceeded reasonably well. The main problems encountered
related to the widespread late delivery of materials and late opening
of many polling stations; inconsistent application of procedures by
polling officials and instances of voters not finding their names on
the list, the scale of which varied. In some areas the nature of the
presence of security forces, particularly the military, was a concern.
Overall, the polling station count was transparent, but again
inconsistencies were observed, notably in the completion of
The new results aggregation system is welcomed as it helps increase
transparency and the National Tally Centre provided access to timely
and transparent information.
Media monitoring reports indicate that the ruling party enjoyed a large
advantage in coverage by state-owned radio and TV.
The main concern regarding the campaign, and indeed regarding the
overall character of the election, was the lack of a level playing
field, the use of money and abuse of incumbency in the process. The
magnitude of resources that was deployed by the ruling National
Resistance Movement (NRM), its huge level of funding and overwhelming
advantage of incumbency, once again, challenged the notion of a level
playing field in the entire process. Indeed, the 'money factor' and
widespread allegations of bribery, and other more subtle forms of
buying allegiance were key features of the political campaign by most,
if not all, the parties.
It is therefore important that for the future serious thought be given
to election campaign financing and political party fundraising. This is
more so given that there are virtually no checks on the levels of
campaign financing and expenditure due to the cash- based nature of the
campaign and the lack of stringent campaign financing regulations, both
of which facilitate the use of illicit payments to voters as
inducements and has the potential to undermine their free.
SOURCE The Commonwealth Secretariat
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