The Electoral Commission chairman attributes the delayed exercise of updating the national voters register to delayed enactment of electoral reforms.
By Moses Mulondo
KAMPALA - The Electoral Commission chairman Dr. Badru Kiggundu has attributed the delayed exercise of updating the national voters’ register in preparation for the next general elections in 2016 to delayed enactment of electoral reforms.
“According to our plan, by this time we were supposed to have started on some key exercises like updating the voters register and voter education but we cannot do so until the new electoral laws have been enacted,” Kiggundu said this week.
He was responding to New Vision’s questions on why important activities like updating the voters register and voter education have not yet kicked off yet time is running out.
The program the EC issued in 2013 indicated that nomination for the 2016 presidential candidates would be carried out in September this year.
On the way forward out of the delays, Kiggundu said, “I have said it several times that the laws should be enacted as soon as possible. This is supposed to be done by the executive and parliament and I have no control over them.
He explained that the voter education they would carry out would involve information about the new laws.
On concerns that his meeting with President Yoweri Museveni last month had reflected him as a compromised and partisan chairman, the election body boss clarified it was meant for the resources the commission requires to prepare for the 2016 general elections.
“Whether some people want to hear it or not, Museveni is the head of state and you cannot avoid him when you need public funds. We went to meet him over the money we need and he assured us we would be given the money we need.”
‘Very limited time’
The opposition leaders last month lambasted Kiggundu for the private meeting he had with Museveni, arguing it was a reflection that the EC is under the armpits of NRM leaders.
Some of the electoral reforms the opposition, civil society and religious leaders are pushing for include disbanding the current electoral commission for a new one agreeable to all the stakeholders and a new voters register which is clean and verifiable.
During a meeting for opposition leaders, eminent persons, religious leaders and civil society leaders on Tuesday at Hotel Africana, the Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago expressed disappointment that government had delayed tabling the reforms in parliament.
Opposition politician Erias Lukwago says time is running out. (File photo credit: Tony Rujuta)
“The time left between now and nomination time is very limited. We are running out of time for reforms. Some of the proposals require establishing new independent structures and a referendum. The NRM government is delaying the process because they know they stand to lose in a credible process,” Lukwago argued.
The opposition shadow minister for constitutional affairs Medard Lubega Ssegona dismissed Kiggundu’s excuses for not updating the register.
“That is wrong. It is true government has deliberately delayed the reforms. But that cannot be an excuse for the Electoral Commission not to update the register. They have laws in place within which they can update the register. The EC is just conniving with the executive to do shoddy work.
‘Biometric voter registration’
Meanwhile, the NRM deputy spokesman Ofwono Opondo said: “The EC does not need new laws to update the register because there are laws which they used last time. Is Kiggundu saying he is illegal or unconstitutional?”
On when government plans to present the proposed reforms in parliament, Opondo said, “I don’t know. What I know is that the cabinet subcommittee which was tasked with working on reforms has completed its report.”
The Lord Mayor urged all democracy-seeking forces to embark on massive activism, arguing it is the only way the regime will be compelled to yield to the citizens’ demands for electoral and constitutional amendments which will guarantee free and fair elections.
But in a separate interview, the EC spokesperson Jotham Taremwa said: “We worked with the national ID project managers to work on biometric voter registration. That is the data we shall use for updating the register.
“All we need to do is just verification.”
The opposition leaders have repeatedly opposed the plan to use data generated in the national ID registration, arguing many eligible voters were left out in the exercise.
Preparations for 2016 elections ''behind schedule’