No one should lose life in an election

Electoral violence in Nakaseke during the NRM primaries

Electoral violence in Nakaseke during the NRM primaries

Enough already. Our country has had a chequered electoral history.

At the same time, it is a country of national pride and decent people. But the political violence, manipulation of voters, bribery and crime are eroding that national pride and decency.

Armed violence, theft of votes and bribery of voters and electoral officials have become the devious sins that are not going away soon from our political and social fabric! This is the time to say NO to election violence.

What is the purpose of participating in elections, anyway? Elections serve basically two purposes in representative democracy. Under our Constitution, citizens aged 18 and above are guaranteed their right to vote their leaders.

And this right affords the people to select the person that best represents their preferences. At the same time these voters are allowed to punish those who do not represent their perspective by denying them votes.

Therefore, it is not a crime to vote for or deny any candidate votes. The chaos that dominated the recently held NRM party primaries speaks volumes about how politically immature some Ugandans are. It is also an indicator of the chaotic time ahead of the general election.

The big shots who have been dominating the political scene have used all sorts of uncivilized means to win over or coerce voters. If they don’t use bribery, they would manipulate voters’ registers. And if that fails, then violent threats are issued and sometimes actual violence is meted out on the opponents.

Unfortunately, some big shots have used their positions in government to intimidate voters. The guns that are being used are purchased by the taxpayers. The question that voters should always ask is why should someone who wants to offer a service, need to bribe you?

How are you going to make such a person accountable to you in future after he has paid for the vote?

The state is required by the Constitution to ensure that citizens exercise their right to vote peacefully and properly.  There are certain decisions that usually lead to unintended consequences. For instance, the chairman of NRM ordered that as long as someone could be identified at the polling station by the LC-1 chairman, they could participate in the party primaries.

This decision caused chaos and some candidates claimed they were voted out by persons who were not members of the party. That decision was partly made because the NRM did not have proper voters’ registers. And because of this, in some areas it was not possible to declare the number of voters before the polls.

The number was declared after the vote tallying. The resumption of the system of lining up behind the portraits of candidates also disenfranchised some people.

Those who had established certain loyalty to certain candidates could not be seen lining up behind other candidates. Therefore, they decided to abstain for fear of being identified with wrong candidates. All these arbitrary changes and decisions contributed to the chaos that marred the NRM elections.  

The Observer hopes the national electoral commission is picking up some lessons from this chaos. We pray that by the time the entire country goes to the polls, all the registers and other infrastructure will in place. Short of that, elections will become a mockery.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd