Preliminary Statement of ICGLR- Uganda General Elections: 18th February 2011
Sunday 20 February 2011
ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION TO UGANDA’S PRESIDENTIAL AND PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 18TH FEBRUARY, 2011
19th February, 2011
Pursuant to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region and the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) at the invitation of the Government of Uganda and the Electoral Commission, sent a team of observers to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections which were held yesterday Friday, 18th February 2011.
The international Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) comprises eleven (11) Countries namely Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda; Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia. Zambia is the current chair of the ICGLR.
The election observation mission to Uganda was led by Hon. Vernon Mwaanga, MP, from Zambia and observed elections from 13th February 2011 to 19th February 2011 and deployed observers in Districts of Kampala, Mbarara, Ibanda, Buhweju, Mukono, Wakiso, Jinja, Mpigi, and Masaka. The mission was composed of members of Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and members of the ICGLR Secretariat.
The electoral system of Uganda can be described as “Three in one”, which enabled Ugandans to elect a President, directly elected Members of Parliament and District Women Members of Parliament on the same day.
The Electoral Commission appears to have made a greater effort in engaging Political Parties, Civil Society and Security agencies to address some of the flows which were identified during the 2006 General Elections. These elections also appear to show that there were fewer cases of electoral violence and intimidation reported during the campaigns period.
The Electoral Commission carried out Civic Education Campaigns and this effort was complimented by Civil Society organizations who recorded messages of peace from members of the clergy and conducted voter education campaigns using radio and television stations across the Country. Civil Society also urged all Political Parties taking part in these elections to desist from violence and engage in issue based political campaigns by calling on the electorate to vote on issues and not propaganda and even more specifically to reject corrupt candidates who offer bribes or incentives.
POLITICAL CAMPAIGN RALLIES AND MEETINGS
We have received no information to suggest that there were candidates who were prevented from holding Campaign rallies and meetings. It is our view that these were to a great extent peaceful and orderly.
REGISTRATION OF VOTERS AND POLLING STATIONS
Accordingly to statistics provided by the Electoral Commission, there are 13,954,129 registered voters and 23,968 Polling Stations spread throughout the Country. A great majority of the Polling Stations are reported to have opened on time at 07:00 Hrs and closed at 17:00 Hrs as required by law. There were however a number of cases of Polling Stations which did not open on time due to the late arrival of election materials and the time lost was in some cases added to the closing time. Voters who were in the queues by 17:00 Hrs were allowed to vote before the counting of the votes at each polling station commenced. Agents for the Political Parties and those of independent Presidential candidates were given identical copies of the voters register to that being used by presiding officers. This was in accordance with a new law intended to enhance transparency and accountability in voter identification.
After Polling Stations closed, votes were counted in the presence of agents of political parties, monitors or observers, members of the Public and announced at each Polling Station by the Presiding officer, beginning with Presidential, directly elected Members of Parliament and District Women Members of Parliament. The results were then transmitted to the Returning Officers in what was described as “Temper Evident” envelopes and sent to the District or Constituency Centres for onward transmission to the National Tally Centre (for Presidential elections only). The Returning Officers were required by law to ascertain and declare Parliamentary election results at District and Constituency level. Results for the Presidential Elections were announced at Polling Stations and then forwarded to the National Tally Centre where they are currently being ascertained and declared by the National Returning Officer. Notwithstanding unforeseen circumstances, all the election results were expected to be announced within 48 hrs after the closure of Polling Stations at 17:00Hrs.
DISTRIBUTION OF ELECTIONS MATERIALS AT THE POLLING STATIONS
The Electoral Commission made a concerted effort to distribute election materials to all the 23,968 Polling Stations, but these did not reach a number of Polling Stations, resulting in the late opening of these Polling Stations. A majority of Polling officials we talked to on Polling day, appeared to know what they were doing and acted professionally and within guidelines issued in conformity with the Electoral Laws of Uganda. However, we came across a few Polling Officials who did not appear certain about some of the guidelines they had received from the Electoral Commission.
PRESENCE OF AGENTS OF POLITICAL PARTIES/INDEPENDENTS, MONITORS AND OBSERVERS AT POLLING STATIONS We are satisfied that representatives of Political Parties/ Independents Presidential Candidates, local monitors and Civil Society organizations were present at many Polling Stations. International Observers were also present in some cases from ICGLR, African Common wealth, COMESA, IGAD, East African Community (EAC), EISA, and The European Union (EU). After voting closed, we witnessed the count at some Polling Stations and announcement of results. When asked about how the voting and counting had gone, a majority of them at the Polling Stations where they were present said that they were satisfied with what they had witnessed.
AREAS REQUIRING ATTENTION
One of the reasons for election observation is to share best practices and experiences. Notwithstanding assurances given by the Electoral Commission in the their final briefing on Tuesday 15th February 2011, there were delays in delivering election materials to many Polling Stations spread across the Country. This resulted in delays in opening some Polling Stations, which caused inconvenience among voters who had queued at the Polling Stations before 07:00 hrs when voting should have started. Improvements in this area are desired.
There were some voters who were not able to find their names and photographs on the National Voters Roll (NVR). The decision to allow voters to vote without voters cards in the just ended General Elections with or without voters cards, provided their names appear on the National Voters Registers (NVR), raised concerns among some stakeholders, who were of the view that the system had the potential for abuse. It is our view that as a member of the ICGLR, Uganda should in future consider introducing a National Registration System as demanded by the ICGLR Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance in Chapter III, Article 8 which states in part : “ Each Member State shall ensure that there is established a national registration system”.
The slow pace at which results have been released so far, has the potential to cause concern among Citizens and create unnecessary suspicion. The new technology, Election Results Transmission System (ERTS), which is supposed to have been a quicker and more transparent way of transmitting results from Districts to the National Tally Centre, does not appear to have worked well so far. A speedy transmission and declaration of results is important to the Stakeholders and the Citizens of Uganda.
PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
Notwithstanding some of the flaws highlighted above, the Electoral Commission displayed a high degree of impartiality in dealing with all stakeholders. Political Parties and independent candidates were able to assemble, move, organize and express their views in conditions of freedom. Some opposition parties complained that the National State Media gave more coverage to the ruling party-National Resistance Movement (NRM) - while some NRM Candidates complained that certain sections of the private media were biased against the ruling NRM. We are unable in the time available to us, to verify these complaints. We are reasonably satisfied on balance, that the just ended elections were conducted in free, fair, transparent, credible and democratic environment, which substantially meets Chapter 3 of the ICGLR Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
It is our view that the just ended elections substantially meet regional and international Standards of conducting elections. We are also reasonably satisfied that the People of Uganda have been given an opportunity to freely express their political choices through the vote in conditions of peace. We take this opportunity to congratulate the People and Political Parties of Uganda for having maintained Peace before and during yesterday’s elections. We urge them to maintain this peace and order after the final declaration of results. We wish to thank the Government and People of Uganda for facilitating our mission. We shall issue a more comprehensive report at a later date which will be transmitted to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Great Lakes Region and through them to the Heads of State.