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Understanding Opposition rhetoric on electoral reforms

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th June 2014 05:19 PM

As usual our opposition groups are beginning to look for scapegoats to try and justify their impending loss in the forth coming 2016 general elections after failing to offer superior alternatives relevant to the Population .

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trueAs usual our opposition groups are beginning to look for scapegoats to  try and justify their impending loss in the forth coming 2016 general  elections after failing to offer superior alternatives relevant to the  Population .

What they fail to comprehend is that political work is  very scientific. It's not about how "smart"one postures or schemes
for short term political convenience, but its rather on how relevant  one's political mobilization is to those whose support he/she seeks to win.

For political mobilization of any contender to be relevant, it must dispense a message of hope and offer realistic solutions to people's  livelihood challenges. It cannot be sustained around quarrels and  squabbles of personal ambition driven by rivalry and envy. That is why  it's no longer exciting to tell Ugandans that Museveni has stayed for  long? So what about it?

They have ever witnessed moments when Uganda  was changing leaders the way human Beings change their dressings and  nothing progressive was achieved.

The message of mobilization therefore  has to be relevant to what affects every one's day to day life .  This  is where NRM scores against all the odds of propaganda and negative  publicity in the media it faces all through.

After every election our  colleagues only concentrate on demonizing one man called President  Museveni instead of carrying out a genuine political Audit on their own political capacity.

They continue to leave in denial. They fail to understand that by spending so much time only dreaming of a Tahirir square uprising in kampala and struggling to lure youth to engage in "street  protests",only serves them to capture short lived media headlines, but  does not in any way build for them a strong political centre of  gravity where common interests of majority Ugandans can coalesce and  thus win their substantial support.

And for that reason the political  geography of the country remains the same without themselves seizing any new territory of support. Independent opinion polls have time and again proved this fact.

Our opposition groups however, led mainly by Dr Besigye, and fully  aware of all these political realities in as far as their political  ratings stand; have resorted now to look for scapegoats. They trade  mainly on two "cover" stories. I call them cover stories because they  are not real. They are intended to be used as cover ups for their glaring political weaknesses .

The first one they are vigorously trading is the so called electoral reforms campaign. Ideally that would mean that
they have a set of proposals suggesting either policy or legal reforms.

And these would be specific with clear justifications for the different  mandated arms of government to look at and consider.

Unfortunately  these so called reforms are not any where articulated. Its all about  one and only one obsession of theirs: Museveni and Museveni nothing else.

To them electoral reform means removing Museveni. One wonders whether  beyond their anti Museveni agenda, they have any thing else crucial to  offer to Uganda's development trajectory. This eventually renders  their whole crusade illogical. For example they talk of disbanding  the electoral commission; a body created by the constitution and  appointed with the approval of parliament.

One wonders how and who  will disband a constitutionally provided for body? If they want to  amend the constitution and perhaps propose a diffident procedure or criteria of appointment of members of the electoral commission let them
come up with concrete proposals contained in a formal bill to  parliament such that their proposals are subjected to rigorous scrutiny  as is always the procedure. But to dream and push for unconstitutional  methods to bring about what they want is not only unreasonable but also  unacceptable.

When you ask them for a better frame work they clamor  for, nothing substantive and serious is put forward. Yet the political
frame work we are running is part and parcel of our constitutional  order that Dr Besigye and others participated in making during the CA.

If indeed their call for electoral reforms was real, one wonders why  they don't support genuine reforms like the national identity card  registration exercise that will put to a complete stop all cases of  multiple registration and therefore multiple voting.

Why are they  vehemently opposed to such initiatives that will help to build an  irregularity proof-electoral system, if they are serious political actors of integrity?

Their second political cover story equally traded most is this "famous" lie told time and again, by both those who know the truth and those who  speak out of ignorance; that the supreme court twice confirmed that  elections were rigged and that only judges spared annulling the  results on the just mere technicality of the substantiality test.

Of course this is mot true. Of all, I was recently astonished by retired Justice Kanyeihamba for going on record at a national debate organized by the  civil society echoing the same falsehood.

I took serious exception to  not only the inaccuracies the retired judge presented in regard to  this story of the Supreme Court rulings; but also the way he was  seriously contradicting his own earlier rulings on the same and which
are on record. The facts however are available.

In 2006 Besigye challenged the results of the Election in what is  known as Election Petition No 1 of 2006. In order to cancel an election  you must (under S.59 of the Presidential Elections Act) show that there  were irregularities which affected the result in a substantial manner  or that a candidate has personally committed an electoral offense. So
the "substantiality test" is not a creation of the Supreme Court. That  is the first to understand.

What happened in the Petition

Besigye tried to argue that the substantiality test was a violation of  the Constitution which said the only standard is that the election must be free and fair (Article 1(4)). All seven judges disagreed (including Kanyeihamba) and held that the Presidential Election Act does not  violate the Constitution.

I therefore invite the retired judge prof  Kanyeihamba to go back and read that judgment his own piece inclusive.

The Allegations

Besigye made a number of allegations. Basically he said that the  election was not free and fair and that a number of irregularities  affected the result in a substantial manner to his disadvantage. He  also said that Candidate Museveni then, had personally committed  illegal acts like bribery and had also defamed him by calling  him(Besigye)a musezi at a campiagn rally in Arua.

All the  irregularities cited were clearly explained in the judgements and could  not in any way point to the fact that the election was rigged. Though  alleged by Besigye, they were not proved and so they collapsed.

Rigging  literally means that one party actually stole the votes at the expense  of the other. No judge confirmed this. The magnitude of each of the  irregularity raised, including those that were even proved was  determined and explained by the judges. It had nothing to do with NRM  or President Museveni. And there was no direct causal link established
by the court between their effect and Besigye's loss.

If the effect  was there, it affected both sides. I can delve into some of the cited  irregularities and show what the court said;

1. Disenfranchisement of voters: The majority found that about 150,000  people were removed from the Register. The circumstances are that after  registration there was a display period for the voters register. Names  were removed by parish committees.

The Supreme Court found that,the  procedure used by those committees was somewhat erroneous. Justice  Katurebe said that although the procedure was not followed there was a  lacuna in the law. And so the irregularity was systemic and not a  creation of neither of the parties.

The judges found no evidence that  this was a deliberate plan by NRM to remove FDC supporters from the  Registar and there was no proof that the majority of people removed  were Besigye supporters.

Odoki held that even if they were, surely
would 8 Million people be forced to vote again on account of 150,000  missing names? And in any case, if the 150,000 votes of those who did  not, were to be donated to besigye, would that make him victorious?  Just simple logic. Certainly not. Overturning the choice of the people  therefore should be based on more than that.

2. Failure to cancel results where malpractices had occurred in Kiruhura, Paliisa and Manafwa.

While this was alleged, the Court found  no evidence to support the allegation that there were gross  malpractices in manafwa and kiruhura. In Paliisa where the court  established malpractices, the results in those particular constituencies were cancelled.

3. Failure to declare results in accordance with the law: The majority  judges however dismissed this claim

4.Bribery; The court found bribery had occurred in some parts and that  some agents of both parties(NRM and FDC) were involved but on the  evidence they rejected the idea that there was "nationwide bribery"  that rendered the entire process un free and unfair.

5.Multiple voting and Ballot Stuffing: A solider called Barigye claimed  to have voted many times. However his evidence was so contradictory  that Katurebe called it "too colored to be relied upon". However they  found evidence of ballot staffing in Paliisa to be true but the results  of the election in the constituencies in Paliisa had been cancelled by  the electoral commission.

6. The court also looked at reports of election monitors. The  Observers found the Electoral Commission had displayed significant  improvement in the conduct of the elections. The reports showed  "exgarrarted nature" of Kiiza Besigye's evidence. The court said  Kiiza Besigye should not plead his case in "terns and synonyms" but his  case must be "precise, specific and un ambiguous".

The DEMGROUP which had agents in 69 districts used a scientific  sampling method that came to the same conclusion as the final result.  So how could Kiiza Besigye then finally claim to have been rigged out  and that results were doctored at Basima House?

All his allegations were however denied. The President then said that  it was Besigye instead who had defamed him in Arua by alleging that  he(President)killed Ayume.

The Decision

By majority of four to three the court held that the irregularities did  not affect the result in a substantial manner. By majority of 5-2 (the  5 include Kanyeihamba JSC) it was held that President Museveni did not  commit any offenses as alleged by Besigye.

What did this mean?

By reading court judgment in full, it becomes evidently clear that  besigye didn't have any strong case, the deliberate misrepresentations of the court judgement over time, notwithstanding.

For example , Justice Katurebe said that even if one voter was removed  from the Register it would be a violation of the law.

He however paused ; Would that be sufficient to cancel an election? He said that you  cannot cancel an election based on evidence that is "flimsy,  exaggerated and consists of outright lies."

He then evaluated the  evidence of Besigye and said that While there had been instances of  systemic irregularities, he concluded that the election held reflected  the will of the people who turned up to vote and that he would not interfere with the peoples' exercise of their discretion.

In his ruling Justice Katurebe further cited examples that exposed  glaring falsehoods and contradictions in Besigye's pieces of evidence.

Like the case of Farida Nagawa, FDC supporter who alleged she was  arrested and dumped in a cell with 400 people in mbarara on polling day.

The judge did not believe that there was a cell that could accommodate 400 people in Mbarara. Farida then claimed that at 4pm Edith Byanyima  got her released from that cell of 400 inmates in mbarara.

The judge further pointed out that Edith Byanyima had stated in her own affidavit that by that exact time of 4pm, she was at Kiruhura Polling  Station almost 100KMS away. So how then could she have been able to  help Farida get released at the same time yet they were in two worlds apart? The lies couldn't add up!!

Odoki CJ held that; there was substantial compliance with the law and  said "the elections though with some shortcomings enabled the will of  the people of Uganda to be expressed and the results of the election  reflected the wishes of those who were able to vote and who were the  overwhelming majority. This means in effect that the irregularities did  not affect the results in a substantial manner.

1st Respondent  (Electoral Commission) exhibited significant improvement in the conduct  of these elections, which were the first multiparty elections since  1980, and also the first time the Presidential and Parliamentary  elections were held on the same day."He noted

Kanyeihamba in his dissenting minority opinion found that the  substantiality test was wrong. He said that As long as there was  illegality it should be enough to cancel an election, no matter the  magnitude and the responsible actor. In his wisdom, He found that both 

Museveni and Besigye had rigged and when he put this to Besigye, his  lawyer argued that for them they are allowed to rig. After all they lost.

The irregularities detected therefore were largely due to system errors  and non compliance of different actors( agents, supporters, electoral officials) and these affected all contending sides but couldn't in any  way fail the process to determine the winner.

That is why any body  serious about fighting electoral fraud and malpractices of any form  must support initiatives like computerized registration of all eligible  voters to totally seal off any loopholes.

Such system errors however  advanced a country may be in terms of technology, will manifest  themselves any where, no matter the level of readiness. What matters is  the will on the part of all the contenders to acknowledge and  scientifically address them. But they cannot fail the intention of the voters to be known.

Frank Tumwebaze, MP

Minister in Charge of the Presidency and Kampala City


Understanding Opposition rhetoric on electoral reforms

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