How Uganda can conduct ‘scientific’ elections in 2021

Ugandans are engaged in heated debates over the merits, possibilities and effectiveness of participating in what is being popularly referred to as a ‘scientific election’.

The East African country is scheduled to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections next year.

The electoral commission last week told the nation to prepare for an unusual election where campaigning will be done digitally, as the destabilizing effects of the coronavirus continue.

Justifying scientific elections

Uganda which currently has over 700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus has been slowly easing restrictions and emphasizing measures of social distancing for all activities in the country.

The commission says it is bound by Article 61 (2) of Uganda’s constitution which tasks it to organize elections within 120 days before the expiry of the term of president, parliament or local government.

In conducting a scientific election, the commission hopes to exercise its duty to facilitate Ugandans’ right to choose their leaders in a healthy and safe environment.

How it will be conducted

Aspirants at all levels will only be able to conduct campaigns electronically via television, radio and social media, since open-air public rallies have been banned.

“This is because electoral activities involve public gatherings and hence pose high COVID-19 risk of person-to-person and object-to-person transmissions,” the commission explained in a statement.

The three months of a lockdown imposed since March across the country also means that some activities will have to be accomplished in a much shorter time.

With hardly six months to the elections scheduled to be held between January and February next year, political parties are yet to nominate flag-bearers for the different offices that will be contested.

Voting itself is to be conducted normally, with president Yoweri Museveni telling the nation on Monday that government can effectively ensure social distancing and other precautionary measures at polling stations.

“… the gathering for the elections themselves, can be safely managed with hand-washing, social-distancing or leaving gaps of the necessary metres between voters in line,” Museveni said.

“This would remove the uncertainty that would be created by the postponement of the elections but also ensure that elections are held safely. I call upon Ugandans to support this option.”

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