- March 2, 2011
- News & Analysis
On February 20, 2011, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner in his fifth presidential bid. This was the second election since the restoration of multi-party democracy in Uganda, but all six opposition candidates protested the results that were reported by the country’s official electoral commission.
The opposition, led by Dr. Kizza Besigye, who came in second in the election with an official tally of 26 percent of the vote, said throughout the campaign that a skewed voter registry and partisan electoral commission made the vote “fundamentally flawed.” Besigye produced a list of complaints – from rampant voter bribery, to ballot stuffing and military intimidation – that he said proved the elections had been systematically rigged. The Ugandan electoral commission denied the allegation.
Check out below reports and statements about the elections from the African Union, European Union and US – many of which echo concerns voiced by the opposition.
Four of the six opposition candidates, including Dr. Besigye, encouraged Ugandans to participate in countrywide peaceful demonstrations to force Museveni out of office. So far, all remains calm in Uganda, but there is widespread discontent at the prospect of President Museveni adding another five years to the 25 he’s already been in power.
The African Union’s Election Observer Mission to Uganda’s preliminary statement regarding the election seemed to support some of the opposition candidates’ claims. As noted in their statement:
The AU Observer Mission was deployed to all regions of Uganda and observed the following:
- The elections were preceded by robust campaigns by candidates across the nation;
- The people of Uganda were enthusiastic about exercising their democratic right and indeed, there was a reasonable voter turnout;
- The Electoral Commission deployed human and material resources to Polling Stations in all the regions, and
- Voting was conducted in a generally peaceful and orderly manner compared to previous elections;
- Counting of votes at Polling Stations was done in full view of the voting populace and other stakeholders;
However, there were several shortcomings:
- Many Polling Stations did not receive voting materials on time, therefore, voting did not start at 7AM as stipulated in the Electoral Law;
- Many voters with voters’ cards were turned away from Polling Stations because their names could not be found on the Voters’ Register;
- A good number of Polling officials did not seem to have adequate training or confidence to perform their responsibilities and as a result procedures were not properly followed;
- The elderly, people with disabilities, expectant mothers and mothers with children were not given priority during the voting process as specified in the Electoral Law;
- Voters’ comprehension of the voting procedure was inadequate, especially in the rural areas;
- The open air setting, the marking of ballot paper in an open bowl as against an enclosure and the exposure of ballot boxes without appropriate lids and seals in some cases opened the materials to the vagaries of the weather and limited the secrecy of the voter;
- The deployment of the armed forces, the police and militias for security was intimidating and could have impacted negatively on the process of the election;
- The general dissatisfaction expressed by different stakeholders on the composition of the Electoral Commission of Uganda undermined the credibility of the process;
- The use of inflammatory language by politicians created unnecessary tension and fear;
- The national electronic and print media fell short of living up to its responsibility of providing access and level playing field to all contesting parties, and
- Allegations of vote buying and open material promises to electorates have undermined the integrity of the electoral process;
The response of the European Union election observers was similar to that of the African Union. They added, “The Electoral Commission has declared results, but the electoral process itself continues until any appeals have been duly considered by the competent authorities in Uganda. I encourage any challenges to the results to be pursued through these channels, and encourage all those elected to the new parliament to engage constructively to promote sustainable development, good governance and respect for human rights.″
The United States department of State responded to the election by saying, “The United States applauds the people of Uganda for their participation in the February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections and congratulates President Yoweri Museveni on his reelection. The elections and campaign period were generally peaceful, but we note with concern the diversion of government resources for partisan campaigning and the heavy deployment of security forces on election day. We are also disappointed by the disorganization at polling stations and the absence of many registered voters’ names from the voter rolls, irregularities that could have been avoided by appointing an independent and more representative Electoral Commission.”