Consensus between EC and Political Parties needed for 2011 elections

By Omar Kalinge-Nnyago

Last week, we argued that political parties should receive money from local and international democracy funds, including Deepening Democracy, to conduct voter education. This is because political parties are primary stakeholders in any voter related activity. Sufficient Voter education results in higher voter registration and also higher voter turn out. The idea that voter education is the preserve of so called 'non-political' civil society is not only wrong but malicious. The intention of the regime since 1986 is to deny political parties space to reach out to the people. It is this intention that has influenced legislation and the discourse on the role of civil society. Civil society organizations have been forced to be seen to be supporting the government. In that way the regime has sought to conscript civil society through threats of cancelling NGO licences, and mainly through zealous Resident District Commissioners, with cancellation of Community Based Organisations' (CBO) licences.

The ongoing Voter education exercise cannot reach the desired national coverage in the time available without the complimentary efforts of the Electoral Commission, Civil Society, Churches and Mosques, Secondary Schools and Universities, the professions, and Political Parties. Until now, substantial voter education money has been given to the Electoral Commission and some few civil society organizations.

The proposal to provide political parties with money for voter education is likely to meet stiff resistance from the regime, whose strategy consists of ensuring that no political party, including its own NRM, should have funds at its disposal. The regime would also be supported by a section of donors, staunch supporters of the regime, who, deep down, know that a properly voter-educated population would be difficult to manipulate by the regime in their favourite activity of election rigging.

That section of donors is content with putting up appearances that they support democracy, but are not prepared to see a regime change in Uganda. At the end of the day they will be publishing the huge sums of money that they spent on voter education and other election related activities in Uganda for the 2011 elections as a demonstration of their 'commitment to democracy' in that 'tiny East African Country', previously ravaged by civil war, which is led by an rare and illustrious visionary, Y.K Museveni, who has maintained stability and curbed HIV infection for the past 25 years'.

It is this section of donors which is keen on paying lip service to the anti corruption fight as they pump billions of shillings to prop up the regime in Kampala. It is same section that is imposing the controversial and unacceptable electoral commission on the Ugandan voters.

It is common sense that a free and fair election is neither possible nor perceivable in Uganda under the present Electoral Commission. Opposition political parties and an influential faction of the ruling party itself have demanded a dissolution of the Kiggundu led commission. Religious organizations and civil society have said as much. Opposition political parties have boycotted all official EC functions. Their engagement with EC has been limited to the technical aspects of the commission like candidate nominations and voter registration, which, if not tolerated, would mean that opposition parties would never participate in democracy in Uganda, which is the goal of the regime. The regime and its section of donor supporters wants the opposition to be “frustrated into boycotting the next election altogether”, so that their preferred candidate and his cronies can save their money accumulated through the well documented corruption scandals- Global Fund, Gavi, Temangalo, NSSF, NAADS,CHOGM etc.

What is needed urgently now is a national roundtable to discuss the preparations for the 2011 elections, with participants drawn from the EC, Political Parties, Civil Society, Religions, Traditional/cultural institutions, Academia, the professions, interest groups, under the chair of a neutral/ agreeable local or international individual, or a mixed panel of individuals of international peace building standing. A clear consensus must be reached on the preparations for the 2011 elections. Hiding heads in the sand, hoping that somehow things between the EC and political parties will work out is recipe for disaster. The 2011 election is under a year away. Quoting constitutional causes to justify an already disputed election will help neither the donors nor the Ugandans, irrespective of which political parties they support, who will suffer more from the brunt of the possible fallout.

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