Photography and filming will not be allowed inside polling stations according to the latest directives from the Electoral Commission ahead of the 14th January Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
The directives are part of electoral rules announced on Wednesday by the Electoral Commission chairman, Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, while speaking at the ceremony to dispatch polling materials ahead of polling day due next week.
Byabakama announced that no cameras, no phones, or even taking selfies shall be allowed at all polling stations around the country during the presidential elections that will take place next week on 14 January.
Voters will not be allowed to witness the counting of votes at polling stations due to COVID-19 standard operating procedures. This is according to the Electoral Commission. Byabakama said, in the wake of COVID-19, they will only allow specific people like agents of candidates, EC officials and security personnel at the polling stations.
“Once you have casted your vote at 7:00am or anytime the election material is available, you should not keep around after casting your vote,” Justice Byabakama said towards end of last week.
says that although it is a right for people to witness the counting of votes, the few people that will remain behind will ensure transparency. He says that it is also dangerous to keep people of different political parties and supporters of rival candidates in the same area.
“It is your right to cast your vote, but we are saying you cannot allow overcrowding in this era of COVID-19. Can you observe social distancing when counting?”
He advised voters to go back home after voting and not hang around to wait for the vote counting.
According to the Presidential Elections Act and for the sake of transparency, voters had a right to attend and witness the process of counting of votes. The Act stipulates that voters can stay at least 20 meters from the polling station.
“Voters who have cast their votes and all other persons in the vicinity of the polling station other than election officers, candidates, candidates agents and observers shall stand or sit at least twenty meters away from the table” says the Act.
The new directives from the Electoral Commission also emphasize use of face masks and voters who come to the polling station without masks will be turned away.
As for the tally centres being planned by the opposition, Byabakama the rationale of private tally centers lacks the locus in the law.
“I do not understand the concept of the tally centre, but if you are going it to announce your own results, when the law says it is only the EC to declare results, then you are playing a dangerous game and law enforcement will have to come in.”
Byabakama said the EC will instead give every candidate a copy of the declaration of results from each polling station.