FABIO STATEMENT ON THE UGANDA LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS 2021

FABIO CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT ON THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS AND THE POLLING SITUATION IN UGANDA

February 05, 2021

Ugandans went to the polls to elect  leaders for the lower local Governments on the 20th  of January,  25th of January and the 3rd of February 2021. These elections came after the presidential and Parliamentary election that was held on the 14th of January 2021. FABIO released a statement on January 19th focussing on the conduct of the  Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

FABIO observed the local government elections in the 5 Districts and 1 city of Busoga Sub Region. This statement therefore focuses on the analysis and  conclusions about the conduct of the January 20th,   January 25th  and February 3rd Local government elections. On  20th of January 2021, FABIO deployed 81 observers categorized as  50 stationary observers, 25  mobile and 6 tally center observers. On  25th of January, FABIO deployed a total of 21 observers of which 12 were stationary, 6 mobile and 3 tally center observers. While on the 3rd of February FABIO deployed a total of 70 observers categorised as 42 stationary , 5 tally Centre and 23 mobile observers.

In all, FABIO stationary observers monitored 104 polling stations and the mobile observers visited a total of 201 polling stations. The tally center observers observed the tallying processes at the District tally centers  of Jinja, Luuka, Kamuli, Namuntumba, Iganga and Jinja City  on each of three election days.

 All deployed observers were accredited by the Electoral Commission as part of the requirements for observation.

The stationary observers worked from 6:30am until  the end of voting, counting and declaration of results at the polling stations . The observers looked at the setup, opening, voting and closing processes, with the focus on electoral violence. In addition, mobile observers also assessed the overall environment outside polling stations on election days. The tally center observers concentrated on the different activities within the tally centers.

GENERAL ENVIRONMENT OUTSIDE POLLING STATIONS

While the environment in the majority of the polling stations where FABIO observed was peaceful and most voters who came to the polling station were able to cast their votes, the election was certainly not without irregularities . For instance, in 10 of the polling stations (3 mayoral, 6 for residual elections and 1 for the District local Governments) FABIO observed electoral infractions ranging from failure of Biometric Voter Verification Kit (BVVK ) machines,  absence of vital election materials;  to  voter bribery.

Voter bribery was mainly observed during the elections held  on the 3rd of February 2021 compared to 25th  of January For instance, FABIO stationary observers reported  8 cases of voter bribery  on the 25th of January, compared to 12 cases of bribery reported on  the 3rd of February.

SET UP AND OPENING OF POLLING STATIONS

All the polling stations FABIO Observers visited were located in public, open and accessible venues that were convenient to all the voters. FABIO did not conduct an accessibility audit of polling stations for Persons with disabilities and pregnant women. As such, this accessibility is relative. Generally, polling stations opened on time with the necessary officials being present. All the polling stations observed had polling officials present and setting up the polling stations by 6:30 am. On 20th January, 12 of 50 polling stations started before 8:00am, 28 started between 8:00 and 9: 00 am, 9 started between 9:01 and 10:00am, and 1 did not start after 10:00am. On 25th of January, out of the 12 polling stations, 2 indicated having started polling by 8:00 am , 9 started between 8:00 and 9: 00 am  and only one between 9:01 and 10:00 am. On the 3rd of February, of the 42 polling stations observed by the stationary observers, 11 polling stations started before 8:00am, 20 started between 8:01 and 9:00am, 9 polling stations started between 9:01 and 10:00am while 2 polling stations had not started polling by 10:00am (in Iganga District Nakalama Sub County, Polling at Nakalama North N-Z and Nakalama mosque)because the polling materials for the women parish councilors were missing.

From the 104 polling stations observed by stationary observers and 201 polling stations observed by mobile observers (305 polling stations combined), the required election materials were available except  in 3 polling stations that lacked the required ballot papers. These were in Sub County of Bulange in Namutumba District on the 20th January where the ballot papers for the male District Councillor was lacking. And in Buwenge  town council, the ballot papers that were delivered at Buwenge Central for the women parish councilors were for Kadiba zone, in Mafubira the ballot papers for the male councilors that were delivered in zone C were for zone A during the 3rd February election.

Out of the 50 polling stations observed by stationary observers on 20th January, 29 polling stations did not have stamp pads. And 5 of the 12 polling stations observed on the 25th of January reported lacking stamp pads while 25 of the 42 polling stations observed for the residual election by stationary observers lacked stamp pads to be used by those that could not write. This compromised the secrecy of the ballot as such voters relied on the assistance of 3rd parties to (vote) write for them.

POLLING PROCESS

FABIO deployed 50 stationary observers and 25 mobile observers across the three elections held on 20th January, 25th January and 3rd February. The Observers reported from a combined 305 polling stations and reported as captured below;    

DEPLOYMENT OF POLLING OFFICIALS

FABIO observed that across the 3 elections, the EC deployed an average of 5 polling officials per polling station which seemed adequate in handling the process. However, in 5 Polling stations, only 2 polling officials were deployed which made the process a bit challenging as one official had to double on other roles.          

THE USE OF BVVK TECHNOLOGY AT POLLING STATIONS

Across the polling stations observed, the BVVK machines available, though some of the machines failed to work in the course of the election day. It was also observed that the efficiency of the polling officials improved with time from the presidential to the Lower local Government elections. For example, 2 out of 50 polling stations observed on 20th January reported failure of the BVVK. And 12 polling stations observed on the 25th January only reported 1 case where the BVVK failed, while on the 3rd only 3 incidents of BVVK failure were reported.

Out of the 305 polling stations observed by the mobile observers, it took an average of 3 minutes for a voter to cast their vote.

OBSERVANCE OF THE COVID-19 SOPs

During the 20th January election, 26 polling stations failed to comply with  the COVID -19 regulations. On the 25th January election, 5 polling stations observed failed to comply with the COVID -19 regulations while 25 polling stations observed during the 3rd February election showed no compliance to the regulations. The issues were mainly observed with regard to absence of hand washing facilities, hand sanitizers and social distancing in queues. Masks were only seen during the first set of elections on January 14. A lot of crowding around polling officials was also observed during the counting, thereby exposing the people to the risk of contracting the COVID 19 virus.

GENDER INCLUSION IN THE DEPLOYMENT OF POLLING OFFICIALS

Both men and women had a fair representation in the deployment of polling officials across the polling stations observed by FABIO. For example, out of the 60 polling officials deployed on the 20th of January, 31 were female and 8 of these worked as presiding officers while on the 3rd of February, out of the 200 deployed at the polling stations observed, 68 were women and 11 of these worked as presiding officers.

VOTER ASSISTANCE IN CASTING OF BALLOT

Unlike the previous sets of elections, the polls conducted on the 3rd indicated a big number of unauthorized personnel helping voters to cast their vote. This was observed in  24 out of the 40 polling stations and the perpetrators were candidates’ agents (20) and polling officials (4).

COUNTING OF BALLOTS    

All the polling stations observed on the 20th, 25th and the 3rd of February reported that counting of votes      commenced at the various polling stations after 4:00pm. It was observed that by 4:pm all polling stations did not have voters in the queues and understandably so; given the rather low number of voters that came out to vote. The counting was done in the open and results announced by the presiding Officers in the presence of the different party and candidate agents. FABIO observed that  political parties agents and candidates that were available at the polling stations were given a copy of a fully signed declaration of results forms apart from where they left before counting was concluded during the 3 sets of elections. The results from the polling stations were submitted manually to the different tally centers by the presiding officers.

CLOSING OF POLLS    

Polling at all of the observed polling stations for the 3 sets of elections had started by 10am and by 4:pm; vote counting had started as there were no voters observed still in the queues. Counting was done at the polling venues apart from areas where it was raining and the polling officials had to relocate to places that had cover. For example, on the 3rd of February, all the 42 polling stations observed had closed polling by 4:00pm except 1. On the 25th of January, all observed polling stations had closed polling by 4pm. And on the 20th January election, 2 polling stations closed before 4:00pm, 46 polling stations closed between 4:01pm and 4:30pm, 1 polling station between 4:31 and 5:00pm and 1 after 5:00pm.

THE TALLY CENTERS

FABIO deployed six observers at the different tally centers in the different Districts of Jinja City, Jinja, Kamuli, Iganga, Luuka and Namutumba Districts. While the environment at the different tally centers was observed to be generally calm with mainly police and the army manning the centers,Some journalists attached to BABA radio were arrested by men in uniform at the Jinja tally center fordoing live reporting during the tallying of the presidential and parliamentary elections.

DISPLAY OF RESULTS AT THE TALLY CENTERS

All six tally centers where FABIO observed had display screens stationed to show candidates agents what’s being entered by the data clerks into the results tally computer. However, due to the inconsistency of figures entered by the data clerks at some tally centres, there were petitions for recount. For example, on the 21st January there was a petition to request for the recount for the Jinja City mayoral slot while on the 26th of January there was also a request for a recount for the Jinja South Division mayor and the Jinja Central woman councilor. There was no such petition for recount during the tallying for the 3rd February election where FABIO Tally observers deployed..

ANNOUNCEMENT AND DECLARATION OF RESULTS

The returning officers at the different tally centers immediately after addition of votes announced the numbers of votes obtained by each candidate in their electoral District. The different agents of the political candidates were accordingly availed with copies of fully signed declaration forms for the directly elected members and District woman members of parliament.

MAJOR CRITICAL INCIDENTS OBSERVED    

  1. FABIO observers reported 5 incidents of alterations of results especially in the declaration forms at the Jinja city and the Jinja District tally center for the mayoral City, Divisions and their respective councilors.
  2. There were 2 reported incidents of Physical Assault, intimidation of candidates and their agents at the Jinja tally center. This was targeted at those that complained about differing results being entered by the data clerks ( in Jinja south mayor and the Jinja central Division councilor elections). FABIO observed some candidates and agents of candidates being battered and thrown out of the tally center.
  3. Unlike during the presidential and parliamentary elections, 15 incidents      of   vote buying during the city mayoral, Division and the residual lower local Government elections were reported. These were mainly in the form of offering money to voters near polling stations in order to sway their vote.
  • In Namutumba District, the Sub County of Bulange did not have elections for the directly elected district male councillors as one of the candidate’s names did not appear on the declaration of results forms

Recommendations

The Electoral Commission should entrench voter education not just in the wake of an election; but all round the electoral cycle. This will likely help in addressing the problem of invalid votes, apathy and  low voter turnout. The Electoral Commission needs to improve in her management of logistics to better address the issues of missing key electoral materials at the polling stations and deployment of polling officials.

Towards greater transparency around Uganda elections, the media should be  allowed  to cover all aspects of the electoral processes. This would go a long in building public confidence in the electoral process and the EC..

FABIO commends the EC for the significant inclusion of women as polling officials. This should be upheld and improved upon by making more women presiding officers. This will build confidence in prospective female voters to participate in the electoral processes. 

The EC should continue to improve upon the transparency of the tallying of results by adoption of electoral technologies that enable electronic transmission of results from the polling station to the central system at the Tally Centre. This will address computation errors and provide a basis for comparison between what the tally Centre data clerks enter and what was sent electronically from the polling stations by the presiding officers.

The EC and the relevant agencies with responsibility for election day security and prosecution of electoral offenders must be seen to be committed to enforcement of the law; including arrest and prosecution of electoral offenders.   assisted voting must be done in total compliance with the legal framework and Vote buying be deterred as strongly as possible including jail time.

CONCLUSION

FABIO has deployed 25 Long term Observers who will continue to monitor the post-election period, including electoral related violence and how it affects women. FABIO will bi-weekly be providing the notary public and critical stakeholders with updates on the post-election violence monitoring.      

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