While the just released roadmap for the 2021 general elections in Uganda has been criticized by sections of the public as lacking in legal respect and not all-encompassing in its formulation, pundits have also identified positives that may come with a scientific election in Uganda.
Former coordinator Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, Crispin Kaheru says a scientific election in Uganda may present to Ugandans a beginning of a new electoral culture devoid of violence and curtail voter bribery which often characterize elections in Uganda.
According to the revised roadmap that was launched by the Electoral Commission (EC) on Tuesday, mass rallies will not be allowed as campaigns will mainly be conducted through media due to the restrictions put in place to control the spread of coronavirus.
The EC further said it will issue specific guidelines for each electoral activity in which several other restrictions may arise on top of the Standard Operation Procedures SOPs already prescribed “to facilitate safe participation” by all stakeholders.
Crispin Kaheru says the shift from physical to digital campaigns could limit electoral violence that is often times fomented at campaign rallies, and less voter bribery. Without direct interface between voters and candidates or their agents, the likelihood of voter bribery is very low.
“Voter bribery especially in rural folks comes in form of salt, soap which may not be possible with virtual campaigns, while those who will attempt to send money by mobile money transfer, risk prosecution since online transactions can be easily tracked” Kaheru said.
He says the common bribes of as low as 1000 Uganda shillings will no longer make the benefit sense since they will be affected by transfer charges from telecom service providers.
Kaheru also contends that Ugandans may see less hate speech and disinformation in the upcoming elections since campaigns will be run over media platforms which are monitored and regulated.
“Many candidates go to rallies knowing there is no one to monitor their speech and end up hurling insults at their opponents. This will not be possible on regulated media where a moderator or regulator will be monitoring the speech” Kaheru said.
He said Insults and lies peddled by politicians during campaigns will be greatly curtailed.
As for the roadmap, Kaheru said it remains to be seen if stakeholders can match the tight timelines as presented in the revised election roadmap. He said the roadmap presents compressed timelines for electoral activities which may not be easy to beat.
He points out the 5-weeks timeline given to political parties to identify flag-bearers which could be a toll order, and the undue advantage the shift to digital campaigns presents to candidates with unlimited access to media over those who have limited or no access to media.