FINACIAL QUAGMIRE: Civil Society Organizations, Opposition leaders get the LC Elections Wrong as they Advocate for Secret Ballot

Voters in a line in Kampala
Voters in a line in Kampala

The Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) has rolled out a country wide public consultation campaign in relation to lining behind candidates during the upcoming LC elections. This will take place between today the 17th of February – 10th March 2017.

This is based on the fact that the government decided to conduct the Local Council I and II elections by way of lining-up behind the candidates in the respective polling stations in the country. CCEDU has now embarked on electoral democracy sensitization which must take place in four countrywide public consultations in Central, western, Eastern and West Nile regions.

In the same case, Crispy Kaheru, who is the CCEDU Coordinator, explained that, ‘the consultations are aimed at enlisting people’s opinions on the proposed mode of election’.

This comes after longer but nosy failed discussions with which the government has insisted that there is no enough funds for the secret ballot voting. In the same way, the opposition leaders have been consistent in terms of vomiting political venom over that system of electing leaders in Uganda. They also believe that it’s very wrong based on the understanding that it erodes the freedom of free choice and privacy on who one wishes to vote.

Secret ballot elections are well and good to be conducted when the government has gotten the money to conduct them but what about the truth that the government has no funds? It’s on record that the government has failed to raise the over 40 billion which the electoral commission needed to organize the secret ballot elections.

With that in context, who of the civil society organizations is willing to part with any funds to educate Ugandans on either secret voting as democracy calls for, or lining up behind the candidate of one’s choice if at all we’re to progress democratically? Yes, CCEDU will be collecting information over the perception of this mode of electing leaders but it can be traced in history that, it was one of one way for the government to cut costs and rather practice democracy effectively.

Are there any advantages in voting by lining up behind the candidate? Can’t this take a great resolve towards the already corrupt Ugandans who accept bribes from all candidates aspiring to become LC 1 or 2 leaders at that? Ugandans love corruption and indeed it has become part of the society however, each of us know the truth that, if one denies receiving it, then the next one get it!

It’s so sad that those who think it is very wrong to lining up in elections also scare away many Ugandans into voting the rightful leaders they want instead? That is already a case of duping Ugandans into the aspect of being fools who do not know what they want yet, it is the opposite? If one wants to fight corruption in a poor country like ours, then you need to go to the grassroots.

Eliminating electoral malpractice in this (lining-up) would be the practice of transparency. In this case, direct and open lining of people exposes the electorate and the candidates to the bitter truth of openness and also help to reduce on the monetization of politics but rather vote for issues and those people who matter.

What about the history and the financial implications?

Previously, the government reasoned that it had no money and thought for a bill which was passed in parliament as per 2014. The parliament passed the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2014 providing for lining up behind candidates during elections of chairpersons for village (LC1) and parish (LC2) levels. The voting method was to be a departure from what was provided for in the Local Government Act of universal adult suffrage through secret ballot.

The Bill provided that, “Election of village or cell council and parish or ward council chairperson shall be by the electorate lining behind the candidates nominated for the office, their representatives, portraits or symbols.” The then Local Government Minister, Hon. Adolf Mwesige argued that despite efforts made to conduct elections at village and parish or ward levels since 2002, the huge cost amounting to Shillings 505 billion had made it impracticable for the elections to be held.

The advantage which was given then was that; the lining up methods is transparent, democratic, time tested method of lining up behind candidates, their representatives, portraits and symbols of candidates.”

The disadvantage was that it “brings along with it intimidation, fear, intrigue, disenfranchisement of leaders and consequently denying many people their right to vote.”

Even though we can all agree to the fact that, the Local Government Act, which mandates the Electoral Commission to organize, conduct and supervise elections of local councils, provides that elections at local government and administrative unit level shall be by secret ballot using one ballot box for all candidates.

The truth is that the government has no money what can we resort too. In all ways even though the government has the money, why not to invest that money into other sectors instead of elections were transparency and fairness are never approved of. The corrupt ones lead the race of electoral malpractice however much we keep crying as other ministries are less funded.

Let’s argue with the understanding of the financial implications of the elections which always denotes the questions of why democracy is failing in many African economies. However much it’s the best, no one is willing to miss on the freebies of the candidates and indeed we fall the prey.

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