Election observers accuse EC of failing on voter education

Kampala- The Electoral Commission’s failure or disregard to conduct meaningful voter education has perpetuated voter bribery, intimidation, and hate speech in the first month of the campaigns, election observers have said.

A new report by the Citizens Election Observers Network-Uganda (CEON-U) indicates that the EC has abandoned the critical voter education ahead of the February 2016 polls.

“We are two months away to the polling day and people are not aware of their polling stations, polling day and what legal framework will be used for the 2016 election,” Mr Crispy Kaheru, the coordinator of Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), one of the CSOs that subscribe to CEON-U, said.

CEON-U is an association of 18 civil society organisations and three associate members that have agreed to conduct a unified and comprehensive domestic election observation mission for the general election.

Mr Kaheru also said lack of enough voter education has created confusion among the voters on when voting will stop due to the Bill that was introduced and later withdrawn from Parliament. The Bill sought to cut the voting time from 5pm to 4pm.

Mr Mohammed Ndifuna, the secretary of CEON-U board of directors, asked the EC to enhance the provision of voter education “to improve election regulation knowledge and change citizens’ attitude toward offences such as bribery, intimidation and violence”.

The report blamed the police for interfering with campaigns, especially those in Opposition.

“Observers noted that the NRM enjoyed unfettered freedom to traverse the whole country in all districts for campaigns while candidates from other parties were denied a chance, in many cases suffering extreme forms of police interference in their legitimate political agendas, such as voter consultation,” reads part of the report. When contacted, the EC spokesperson, Mr Jotham Taremwa, dismissed claims and instead accused the CSOs for not doing their supplementary work.

“The Electoral Commission is out in the field conducting voter education (and) we accredited CSOs to play a supplementary role. From the field reports, not many are doing it (voter education),” he said.

“We procured services of professional firms to handle voter education and publicity campaigns. Our messages have particular emphasis on peaceful campaigns and elections,” Mr Taremwa added.

atumwine@ug.nationmedia.com
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR