Electoral reforms can’t guarantee fair elections in 2021 – UN speaks out

Having electoral reforms in place without the Government’s political will cannot guarantee free and fair elections, a UN expert on democracy and governance practices has said.

Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana said in Uganda, the ground is not leveled for all the political actors to exercise their rights.

He accused the Government of being bent towards blocking presidential aspirants from countrywide consultations, especially the Kyandondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. Kyagulanyi, the head of People Power, a pressure group, a was blocked from consulting the electorate at Gayaza, Wakiso, Gulu and Lira district.

The Police faulted him for failure to observe the guidelines in line with the Public Order Management Act.

“Until you resolve biases on the side of government, exclusion, political inequality and disparities, we definitely cannot have reforms that will guarantee free and fair elections,” Dr. Sewanyana said.

The UN expert was addressing journalists at Uganda Journalists Association headquarters in Kawempe, a Kampala suburb. He argued that electoral reforms were intended to create a level playing field and enhance political equality but the Government is not showing political will towards reforms.

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, in July tabled before Parliament four Bills intended to reform the electoral laws but the debate on the Bills is yet to commence. The titles of the Bills are the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill, 2019, the Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill, 2019, to Information Act 2005, which stipulates that the public shall access information from the Government but quite often journalists have been denied information.

He said in order to achieve political and economic development, there must be fairness at all levels. The human rights advocate explained that if reforms are to be meaningful, there must be fairness in political equality and the right to freedom of expression and association among others.

“If there is no level ground as a result of lack of political will, then we will not achieve free and fair elections,” Sewanyana said.

The deputy government spokesperson, Col Shaban Bantariza, stressed that there must be goodwill from all political actors, the Government, and the electorates.

“Imagine that the Government has goodwill and some hooligans decide to burn ballot papers because their candidates are losing and start fighting the Police. What do you expect the Government to do?” Col Bantariza asked.

He stressed that goodwill is required of every political actor and the electorate.

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