As the country prepares to go to polls next week, authorities at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Wednesday started dispatching polling materials to the 146 district offices across the country. The EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, flagged off the first batch of electoral material, including ballot papers, and voter registers for the election of councillors for Special Interest Groups (SIG), as well as parliamentary and presidential elections.
The kit also includes Declaration Forms, accountability forms, official report books, cordoning strips, polling officials’ attires, solar lamps, among others.
“Today [yesterday], the EC officially flags off the dispatch of polling kits to all districts in the country in preparation for the conduct of the following elections; Councillors for Special Interest Groups (Older Persons, PWDs, and Youth) to sub county/town council or municipal division, to be held on January 11. Elections of councillors for SIGs to the municipality and city division to be held on January 12. And presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for January 14,” Justice Byabakama said.
He said the early dispatch is designed to facilitate timely delivery of polling materials to all districts and eventually enable timely conduct of elections across the country.
He scoffed at allegations of intentional delays in areas known to be strongholds of Opposition parties as raised in the last election.
“I do not know if the EC has a barometer that they use to determine that this is an Opposition stronghold, or this party is doing well here…We have said repeatedly that what happened in 2016 was most unfortunate and we have taken steps to ensure that it does not happen again. Our arrangement is that every district has a truck to deliver materials. We have gone out of our way to secure enough vehicles to ensure timely delivery,” Justice Byabakama said.
Trucks headed to nine districts: Busia, Butambala, Mukono, Iganga, Karenga, Kasese, Agago, Sironko and Terego, set off from the EC warehouse in Banda at the time of flagging off.
The loading of trucks for other districts and other elections is ongoing and they will be dispatched this week.
The trucks, while in transit, are secured by two police officers from Very Important Persons Protections Unit.
“There are other security details that we will not share, including the routes. The returning officers and district police commanders have worked out an arrangement for the security of these materials until they are delivered,” Mr Paul Bukenya, the EC spokesperson, said.
Justice Byabakama asked political parties who wish to monitor the transportation process to write to the commission availing the details of officials and the vehicles they will be using to follow the trucks.
He said each political party, and independent candidates will be presented a parking list, containing the details of all the materials that are being dispatched.
“The political parties have been brought on board. The materials were well calculated based on the number of polling stations and number of voters. The parking list is ready and we will give to each political party or candidate. The list contains everything that is being dispatched,” he said.
The EC chairman warned presidential candidates against declaring results from the parallel tally centres they intend to set up.
“Under the law, there is only one recognised tally centre, the national tally centre for presidential and the district tally centre for parliamentary and others positions. I do not understand the rationale of these and what their position is in law. The commission requires us to give every candidate a copy of the Declaration Form to every candidate to know what they have scored from that polling station. But if you are going to misuse that tally centre, to mislead the people of Uganda, to declare your own results then you are playing a dangerous game,” Justice Byabakama said.
Opposition and independent presidential candidates on Tuesday announced plans to form a joint tally centre which will coordinate and compute results. The ruling NRM party has also promised to form a parallel tally centre.
Justice Byabakama said discussions are ongoing to determine the number of people that should be allowed at the polling station, given the restriction on gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Alluding to Ministry of Health Covid-19 guidance, Justice Byabakama warned candidates against rallying voters to remain at the polling stations after casting their vote.
“Each candidate is entitled to two candidates. We already have 11 presidential candidates. There are some constituencies with 15 candidates…then observers and security. If you are going to encourage 1,000 voters to remain at the polling station, what are you doing? Be careful you might end up losing the votes if these people start any chaos that may lead to disruption and destruction. The defenders of the votes are the agents the candidate has appointed,” he said.