FDC's Mwiru wins Jinja Municipality East seat

By Joseph Kizza

Paul Mwiru beats seven other contestants, including his main challenger NRM's Nathan Igeme Nabeta in the repeat election.

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PHOTO: Paul Mwiru will be smiling all the way to Parliament following his victory. (File photo by Juliet Kasirye)


JINJA - Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party flagbearer Paul Mwiru has won Thursday's Jinja Municipality East Constituency byelection, beating seven other contenders, including his closest challenger Nathan Igeme Nabeta of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

Inside the Jinja district council hall, Mwiru was declared winner with 6,654 votes while long-time rival Nabeta was second-best with 5,043 votes.

Independent candidate Faisal Masaba garnered 117 votes to finish third. Paul Mugaya Geraldson of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) came in fourth with 48 votes.

Richard Nyanzi, another independent candidate, was close behind with 47 polls while fellow independents Francis Wakabi and Monica Abuze polled 24 and 18, respectively.

Isabirye Hatimu Mugendi, who also stood as an independent, trailed with seven votes.

Rogers Sserunjogi, the returning officer of Jinja Electoral District, declared Mwiru the winner late Thursday after the votes were collated and Mwiru found to have the majority polls.

The total number of valid votes cast was 11,958 while the invalid ballots were 145. The spoilt votes were 31.

After receiving a copy of the results, the NRM said in a statement the party would hold a "special press conference" on Friday in Jinja town.

The venue for the 10am press briefing would, according to NRM communications officer Rogers Mulindwa, be announced later.


Renewed rivalry

The buildup to Thursday's byelection had singled out the long-standing political rivalry between Nabeta and Mwiru as the main plot of the repeat poll.

Much as the race featured other six candidates, all but one of whom were independents, the main focus remained on the duo.

It was the fifth time that Nabeta and Mwiru were facing off since 2006. The NRM candidate emerged victor in 2006, 2011 and 2016 while his FDC counterpart won in a byelection of February 2012.

But in January, Nabeta lost his seat in Parliament after the Court of Appeal nullified his victory, paving way for a byelection.

In the latest face-off, Mwiru will relish his victory after a day of reported mishaps in some of the 47 polling stations across the constituency. He will have the last laugh after a close contest in the eastern part of the country.


'Chaotic scenes'

Meanwhile, the heavy security deployment in the area on a generally wet Thursday had got many hoping the byelection would go on without incident.

However, allegations of vote rigging, ballot stuffing and voter bribery later fizzled to the fore.

"At some point, FDC president Patrick Oboi Amuriat, who was in the constituency, displayed a ballot paper that was pre-ticked in favour of NRM's Nathan Igeme Nabeta," election watchdog Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) said in their preliminary report.

"The Jinja metropolitan area, specifically Main Street, was the theatre of chaotic scenes resulting from occasional running battles between the security personnel and locals.  For instance, at Main Street Primary School, police conducted various arrests on account of NRM party supporters allegedly campaigning around the polling centre," CCEDU reported.


At the same polling station, New Vision's Jinja correspondent Donald Kiirya reported that NRM supporters drove musician Geoffrey Lutaaya (pictured above with hooded jacket), said to belong to Mwiru's camp, out of the station.

In the fiesty atmosphere, elsewhere, at Spire Road Primary School polling station, the chairperson of Nabeta's taskforce, Osman Noor Ahmed, came close to being attacked by FDC supporters, before the intervention of the Police.

Other forms of altercation were reported in other areas.




CCEDU Preliminary Observations | Jinja East By-election -- 15th March 2018

Opening of polling stations and polling: The March 15th 2018 by-election in Jinja Municipality East Constituency registered a slow start – especially after the heavy morning downpour disrupted the commencement of polling. Several voting places around Jinja metropolitan area including the four (4) polling stations at Main Street Primary School commenced voting after 8:00am.  This was partly due to the lack of the five (5) voters required before commencement of voting – due to disruptions caused by the rain.  Voters braved the heavy rains that characterized most of the parts in Jinja Municipality East Constituency to go and vote at their respective polling stations.  Queues at polling stations increased in length in the afternoon even though the rains continued.  Under the circumstances, there was a general enthusiasm around the polling day as reflected by the long queues of especially young men and women that turned out to vote.

Deployment of Security: This could have been the most policed by-election in Uganda’s recent history, with a single polling station being manned by more than one polling constable.  Most urban polling stations had as many as 30 security persons supervising a polling station – a number that surpasses what has been seen before in hotly contested elections such as, the Kyadondo East Constituency by-election conducted in 2017. Volatile Jinja town areas attracted much higher deployment. In some cases, security deployment was of an intrusive nature and catalyzed rowdiness among locals.

In law and in principle, the EC is supposed to manage all aspects of the election including, security. Perceptions around security agencies occasionally interfering with the electoral environment outside the purview of the EC still exist.  EC needs to counter both the perceptions and realities of being subordinate to security agencies on matters electoral security.

Incidents: The Jinja metropolitan area, specifically Main Street was the theater of chaotic scenes resulting from occasional running battles between the security personnel and locals.  At for instance, Main Street Primary School, police conducted various arrests on account of NRM party supporters allegedly campaigning around the polling center.  A phantom polling station was in the earlier part of the day erected at the Main Street Primary School bringing the total number of polling stations to five (5) instead of four (4).  Vigilante citizens exposed this anomaly and the 5th polling station was immediately removed. Voters demonstrated exceptional vigilance in the by-election, to the extent that most of those who turned up to vote at different polling stations remained around, until the time of counting the votes – after 4:00pm.

Allegations of vote rigging, ballot stuffing and voter bribery remained widely spread. At some point, FDC President, Patrick Oboi Amuriat who was in the Constituency displayed a ballot paper that was pre-ticked in favour of NRM’s Nathan Igeme Nabeta.  The EC however dismissed the complaints around leaked and pre-ticked ballot papers noting that the serial numbers on the allegedly pre-ticked ballots were different from those that EC held in their custody.

Candidate Agents: Party and candidate agents from both the ruling NRM and the opposition demonstrated exceptional watchfulness of the polling process.  Opposition MPs and senior figures watched the voting process at all the 47 polling stations in Jinja Municipality East Constituency.  Senior figures from the NRM party likewise guarded their candidate’s vote in the Constituency.

Management of Polling Day: The EC deployed its staff to work as senior polling officials at the 47 polling stations in the Constituency.  This may have accounted for the fair level of efficiency witnessed during the polling and counting process.  Counting of votes is still on going at most polling stations.

Whereas the previous practice and norm has been that polling stations are located in open air spaces for purposes of guaranteeing transparency, most polling stations in Jinja Municipality East by-election had to be moved from open-air spaces to semi-covered facilities to protect polling materials from getting destroyed by the rain.  In future, the EC will have to re-think the practice of locating polling stations in open-air spaces without compromising the principle of transparency of an election.

By Crispin Kaheru