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Uganda Electoral Commission Promises Free, Fair Vote Friday

Peter Clottey February 17, 2011

An official of Uganda’s electoral commission told VOA the electoral body consulted widely with all participating political parties to put in structures he said would ensure Friday’s parliamentary and presidential election is free and fair.

Charles Willy Ochola, commission spokesman, told VOA official campaigning ended Thursday without any violence as has happened in previous elections.

“Campaigns ended without any incidents recorded. So, with that, I will say, today, Ugandans will be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote (for) the candidate of their choice. Also, it will be the first time in Uganda that the electoral commission has been acclaimed as being the best organization in the country.”

Analysts expect incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, who abolished term limits in 2005, to win a fourth term despite a strong challenge from opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, a former ally and personal physician of Mr. Museveni. The margin of Mr. Museveni’s victory has dwindled in each of the last three polls they have competed.

The opposition has rejected previous election results saying the electoral commission is biased towards President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, a charge ruling party supporters deny. Mr. Museveni’s opponents have expressed concern his re-appointment of the same members of the commission that organized the previous two elections will undermine the credibility of Friday’s vote.

But, Ochola said the electoral body consulted with stakeholders, including all political parties, to ensure a credible vote.

“I believe the issue of credibility will be judged if you had asked the political parties because all the political parties were involved in all the exercises… just like for national voter register; they were participatory as well as (in) the printing of ballot papers. They (opposition poll agents) are all in polling stations all over Uganda, which means the credibility of the electoral commission and its poll transparency can be just seen from there.”

About 14 million people are registered to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. These are the fourth elections in Uganda since the return of multi-party polls in 1996. Mr. Museveni has ruled the country since seizing power in 1986.

“On the issue of composition of the electoral commission, it is in our constitution that the president of the Republic of Uganda shall nominate names of people of integrity and moral aptitude to become electoral commissioners. So, the opposition should know that we are legally constituted,” said Ochola.

“There is no reason for them to believe that there are ghost voters. What they are saying is that the number of people in Uganda today, especially the youth, if you compare with the projected number of voters in the national voters register, there is a discrepancy. But, they are projecting their contention on projections of the national census. But, the commission believes that the people who are in our register are actual figures.”

Meanwhile, Uganda's election chief has warned the opposition not to conduct a separate tally of the vote results. Badru Kiggundu said Thursday only his commission can declare the official tally. Kiggundu said releasing a separate result is a violation of the constitution.

Besigye has said his four-party coalition will release its own results asserting that the presidential vote will be rigged.

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