The Electoral Commission (EC) of Uganda, the body mandated by the Constitution to conduct elections has declared that the 2021 Presidential and General Election will be conducted online due to the threat of COVID-19.
At a press conference organised by the EC at their headquarters on Jinja Road, the Chairman Justice Simon Byabakama has notified the nation that the roadmap has changed and forms of campaigns drastically updated because of the threat in public rallies.
“The Commission wishes to assure our esteemed stakeholders that this Roadmap has been revised with careful consideration of the operational requirements for the electoral activities and the legal framework governing the conduct of elections, however, under reduced timeframes. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, and health risks involved and the expectations during the electoral activities, preparations and conduct of these elections will take different modes.” Justice Byabakama noted.
The Commission noted that they have considered the need to preserve health of the Citizens vis a vis their (Citizens’) constitutional & democratic right to elect leaders of choice as guaranteed under the Constitution and as such, they have come up with a plan that ensures minimal person-to-person contact during implementation of electoral process, as a measure to control the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Justice Byabakama, the Commission will avail nomination forms on its website that can be printed by those with access to the internet and for those with no access to internet, hard copies will be availed.
“We will only allow an aspiring candidate with only two people; the nominator and a seconder.” The EC Chair observed.
On mass campaigns and rallies, that have been the highlight of the elections, the Commission said those will not be allowed but will be conducted mainly through the media.
Some of the key dates in the revised roadmap include;
- Deadline for political parties and organizations to identify flag-bearers (22 June -21 July, 2020).
- Deadline for resignation by public servants wishing to participate in special interest groups committee elections (29th June 2020)
- Deadline for resignation by public servants aspiring to contest for; i) Parliamentary Elections – 12th July ii) Local Government Councils Elections – 6th August iii) SIG Representative to Parliament- 7th August iv) Presidential Elections- 31st October
- Nomination of village Special interest groups committees is due on August 5, 2020.
- Deadline for establishment of academic papers with EC by candidates: aspiring for local government (7 July); Parliamentary elections ((11 August); Presidential elections (1 September)
- Harmonization of Campaign Programme and Signing of Memorandum 4th – 9th November 2020
- Period for nomination of candidates for Local Governments, including Special Interest Groups (SIGs) 7th – 17th September
- Nomination of Candidates for Parliamentary Elections 12th – 13th October 2020
- Nomination of Candidates for Presidential Elections 2nd – 3rd November 2020
- Conduct of candidates’ campaigns digitally for Local Government 28th September 2020 – 8th January 2021
- Conduct of candidates’ campaigns digitally for Parliamentary Elections 20th October 2020 – 8th January 2021
- Conduct of candidates’ campaigns digitally for Presidential Elections 10th November 2020 – 8th January 2021
- Polling period for General Elections (exact polling dates to be appointed in due course) 10th January – 8th February 2021
The Commission appealed to political parties and organisations as well as individuals aspiring to contest as independent candidates, to utilise the limited time provided in the revised Roadmap, and prepare to participate in the respective activities.
“The Commission advises political parties and aspiring independent candidates to ensure safe practices during primaries and other preparatory activities. Candidates, their agents and supporters are urged to strictly follow the guidelines on public meetings as issued by the Ministry of Health.” Justice Byabakama said.
On voting, the Commission acknowledged that votes shall be cast personally as has been the norm, only that this time, MoH guidelines shall swing in. Each polling station will be required to observe social distancing, wear face masks in public and regular washing of hands.