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Turnup low in referendum
Publish Date: Jul 29, 2005
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‘Yes’ side takes lead

By Hamis Kaheru,
Felix Osike
and Milton Olupot


YESTERDAY’S referendum on the change from the Movement to a multiparty political system was characterised by a low voter turnout in most parts of the country.

Preliminary results showed the ‘Yes’ side had secured an early lead. The Electoral Commission (EC) was expected to start announcing official results at a receiving centre in Hotel Africana, Kampala.

The voters were asked to tick ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the question, “Do you agree to open up the political space to allow those who wish to join different organisations/parties to do so to compete for political power?”

A symbol of a tree was for the ‘Yes’ side while a house represented the ‘No’ side.
Although polling centres opened at 7:00am, reports from a number of polling stations said voters started coming in after 9:00am.

Voting in Wakiso and other places could not kick off at 7:00am because of lack of the required five voters to witness the opening of ballot boxes.

“The witnesses have to check the ballot boxes to confirm that they are empty. We got witnesses at 8:00am,” said Majid Kukulakwetta, the presiding officer at Nansana East polling centre.

An international observer told
Reuters that the turnout was “really very disappointing” and was as low as 10 percent in some areas. At least 8.9m Ugandans registered to vote, of the 11m eligible voters.

In a desperate attempt to mobilise voters, the EC sent out a short message to voters urging them to go to the polling stations. It read, “Voting is on now and it is extremely important for the country. Please exercise your right and urge a friend to vote today as well.”

EC Secretary Sam Rwakoojo said at 3:00pm, “The exercise is picking up. We have received reports from Eastern region, Kanungu, Rukungiri and Mbarara, the turn up is good.”

He said some MPs from Lira tried to sabotage the exercise by calling on voters to boycott it.

In Pallisa town council, a number of eligible voters did not vote because their names were not on the registers yet they participated in the update. Those who were turned away kept moving to various stations to look for their names until they gave up.

At Masaka town Bata Cell B polling station, the ‘Yes’ side got 71 votes against eight for ‘No’ side. Only 82 out of 337 registered voters turned up. At the Town Yard, “No’ got six votes, “Yes’ 88, while four were invalid, meaning 98 out of 738 voted. The two stations registered 13-24% turn up.

At Gulu’s Acholi Inn A & B, ‘Yes’ got 166 and ‘No’ 23. Out of 1,384 registered voters only 196 participated, a 14% turn up.

In Rukungiri Town Council, provisional results from three polling stations showed a total of 431 votes for ‘Yes’ and 74 for ‘No’. In Buyanja sub-county the ‘Yes’ side had 365 against 37 for ‘No’.

In Ntungamo, an agent for ‘No’ side was chased away from the polling station by the ‘Yes’ supporters as he arrived to oversee the voting exercise. There were no agents for the ‘No’ side at all polling stations in Ntungamo Town Council.

Reports from Pader said results from polling stations announced last evening showed the ‘Yes’ side was in a comfortable lead.

In Kasese, Kabarole and Bundibugyo, a heavy downpour from dawn to noon kept would-be voters indoors. In Kasese, voting at Karungibati and Rusese army barracks delayed because the materials for the two army units were accidentally swapped.

In the 2000 referendum, the Movement got 4.3 million (90.7%) votes and multiparty got 442,823 votes (9.7%).

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