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Uganda Opposition Wants Electoral Reforms, Vote Postponed

FILE - Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
FILE - Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

A prominent opposition leader says Ugandans will no longer tolerate rigged elections, after what he says have been years of voter irregularities and polls that are skewed in favor of President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement.

Kizza Besigye says there is a need for electoral reforms to ensure an equal playing field for opponents of the NRM before elections are held. Uganda is scheduled to hold a general election next year.

But opposition and civil society groups have called for a postponement of the poll until the electoral reforms are implemented to ensure transparent, free, fair and credible future elections.

Their demands came ahead of a parliamentary group’s call for the government to consider rescheduling the upcoming election until constitutional amendments are done to pave way for the electoral reforms.

Besigye says a majority of Ugandans support the call for electoral reforms.

“All the proposals that have been tabled before the parliamentary committee have been all pointing at the need for fundamental electoral reforms. And this is indeed against the background of having a country where no single leader has ever handed over power to another,” said Besigye.

He expressed concern that the country could be plunged into political crisis if the government refuses to heed the call of the people to implement electoral reform measures before next year’s vote.

The government proposed measures it says will help clean up the electoral process. Officials say the proposals presented to parliament will instill confidence in future elections.

But Besigye disagreed, saying the administration is only interested in making cosmetic changes in the electoral process. He says there is need for an independent electoral commission that cannot be influenced by the administration.

“The electoral commission is chosen by the president, who is a candidate, who has power to dismiss it. So once you don’t have an electoral commission that is independent you cannot have a process that is credible for all parties,” said Besigye.

“There are many fundamental problems that need to be dealt with, yet there is no time to deal with those problems before the next election ... next year. Therefore anybody recommending that there needs to be a creation of time to undertake these fundamental reforms is saying something that is obviously needed,” he added.

Besigye says the administration often uses state security institutions including the police and the military to influence elections.

But supporters of the NRM say the party has always won legitimate elections deemed free and fair by international poll observers. They dismissed call for a postponement of the election contending that it undermines the constitution.

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