The Electoral Commission Chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi has released the new revised roadmap for commencement of various key electoral activities which were suspended three months ago due to a nationwide lockdown and curfew to stem the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
The general elections that will allow Ugandans to choose their next president and members of parliament among other political leaders will still go ahead between January 10th-February 8th,2021 but under strict Special Operating Procedures (SOPs) guidelines to contain the spread of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Justice Byabakama also revealed that all campaigns for the various positions including the presidential, parliamentary and local governments will be conducted digitally meaning that there will not be the usual mass campaign rallies and town hall engagements . It is not clear whether the attendant electoral laws will be amended to cater for the digital campaigns and how exactly such campaigns shall be carried out and who will foot the bill.
But the Electoral Commission Chairman promised that specific guidelines for each electoral activity under this revised Roadmap will be issued in due course and will engage with various stakeholders on the same. This includes detailed information on specific requirements for nomination as a candidate, access to nomination forms, nomination fees and venues and conduct of campaigns and polling process.
The important dates
Nominations for presidential candidates will take place between 2nd-3rd November ,2020, candidates for parliamentary elections will be nominated between 12-13th, October 2020 and those contesting for local governments will be nominated between 7th017th September 2020.
The presidential digital campaigns will be conducted between 10th No,vember 2020 – 8th January 2021 and parliament digital campaigns shall be carried out between 20th October 2020 – 8th January 2021.
The revised roadmap is a crash program to recover the three months lost time and sets June 22nd-July 21st ,2020 as the new dates for political party and organizations to identify flag bearers. Public servants who wish to contest for elective positions for special interest groups should resign their positions by close of this month in any cases latest June 29th,2020 and July 12,2020 for public servants wishing to contest for parliamentary seats . The deadline for resignation by public servants aspiring to contest for Presidential Elections is 31st, October 2020.
The deadline for establishment of academic papers with Electoral Commission by aspiring candidates for Local Government is set for 7th July 2020, aspiring candidates for Parliamentary Elections 11th August 2020 and aspiring candidates for Presidential Elections1st September 2020.
Justice Byabakama appreciated government under the leadership of President, Yoweri Museveni, for the “courageous and wise management” of the corona virus pandemic.
He also conveyed special thanks to the various agencies and task force teams at the national and district/local levels, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, “for their tireless efforts in guiding the nation in public health safety, which has helped to keep infection levels low and preventing the loss of lives due to the pandemic.”
By the time government declared a nationwide lockdown, the Commission was implementing preliminary activities under the Roadmap for the 2020/2021 General Elections. These included update and display of the National Voters Register and Registers of Special interest groups. The Commission was also carrying out activities for the conduct of elections for the Special Interest Groups (Persons with Disability, Older Persons, Youth) Committees from Village to National Levels. This was to be followed by other preparatory activities for elections of Local Government Councils, Members of Parliament and the President.
“The Commission recognises the constitutional right of citizens to vote and choose their leaders, as well as our duty to facilitate the exercise of those rights. The Commission is further mindful of the need to ensure a healthy and safe environment for all stakeholders during the electoral process,” Justice Byabakama stated ahead of the polls the first to be held since he was appointed chairman of the Electoral Commission
Byabakama said the Commission had carried out a risk analysis, the implications 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.” He said.
The Commission will avail nomination forms on its website that can be printed by those with access to the internet. However, for those with no access to internet, hard copies will be availed. Important to note is that we will only allow an aspiring candidate with only two (2) people; the nominator and a seconder.
After consultation with the Ministry of Health , the Commission has considered and adopted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to facilitate safe participation by all stakeholders in the electoral process. These emphasise safe practices, which have been customised to elections and electoral process include; Practicing social distancing; Wearing face masks in public; and Regular washing of hands.