FABIO – UGANDA in conjunction with NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE (NDI) have participated in the observation process of the UGANDA GENERAL ELECTIONS 2021. A press statement has been released in Accordance to the exercise.
FABIO STATEMENT ON THE POLLING SITUATION IN UGANDA
January 19, 2021
Ugandans went to the polls to elect the President and Members of Parliament on January 14, 2021.The presidential race attracted a total of 11 candidates. The analysis of today’s polling day statement is informed by our observations. As part of the international community, Uganda was expected to adhere to international principles and standards for holding free and fair elections.
On election day, FABIO deployed a total of 81 observers: 50 stationary observers, 25 mobile observers and 6 tally center observers in the 5 Districts and 1 city of Busoga Sub Region. All the observers were accredited by the electoral commission as part of the requirements for observation apart from Kamuli where they only accredited the tally center observers. Accreditation of the observers was a big challenge to FABIO as the process was not clear and bureaucratic. This created anxiety as accreditation was done at the last minute and in Kamuli on the very polling day.
The stationary observers were placed at 50 specific polling stations and worked from 6:30am to the end of voting, counting and declaration of results at the polling stations they observed. The mobile observers visited a total of 86 polling stations on election day while the tally center observers looked at the tallying process at the 6 District tally centers (Jinja, Luuka, Kamuli, Namuntumba, Iganga and Jinja City).
The observers looked at set up, 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 day.
FABIO observed the pre-polling period and issued several statements on the campaign process that was marred by arrest of candidates, intimidation of voters, limitations in terms of campaign time and venues especially on the side of mainly the opposition candidates. While the January 14 elections took place against the backdrop of the pre-election environment with significant electoral challenges, this release mainly focuses on the polling day that took place on the 14th of January 2020 with a major focus on the election day and the tallying up until the 15th of January when the declaration of all the results was finished.
GENERAL ENVIRONMENT OUTSIDE POLLING STATIONS
The general polling environment on the 14th day of January 2014 was peaceful at and around polling stations where FABIO observed, and though the official voter turnout announced by the Election Commission was low (57.22% as of January 17) voters that did turnout were able to cast their vote without any major challenges. Out of the 86 polling stations observed by the mobile observers, there were only 4 polling stations where chaos was observed around the polling stations and this was mainly attributed to areas where the electoral materials arrived late and the voters seemed to run out of patience. Only 10 out of the 86 polling stations observed elements of voter inducement and this was mainly in the form of voter bribery.
INTIMIDATION OF VOTERS AND POLLING OFFICIALS
Observers reported very few instances of intimidation and harassment of voters at and around polling stations. Specifically, observers reported 15 incidences of intimidation of voters while mobile observers reported 11 incidences of intimidation targeting women.
SET UP AND OPENING OF POLLING STATIONS
All the observed polling stations were located in public, open and accessible venues that were convenient to all the voters. Generally, polling stations opened on time with the necessary officials being present. 39 out of the 50 stationary observers noted that polling officials were present and setting up the polling stations by 6:30 am. Of the 50 polling stations observed by the stationary observers, 8 indicated voting to have started by 7:00 am, 29 between 8:00 and 9:00am, 8 between 9:01 and 10:00am while 5 had not opened by 10:00am. According to the observers, opening was mainly delayed by the late delivery of the relevant electoral materials.
All the polling stations observed by the stationary observers and mobile observers (136 in total) had all the required election materials. However, 61 polling stations lacked the indelible ink to mark voters after they voted. Twenty-five of the 50 polling stations where we deployed the stationary observers lacked the stamp and the stamp pad to validate the ballot to be cast.
The voting process was observed by 50 stationary observers and 25 mobile observers of FABIO who monitored the voting process from a total of 136 polling stations on election day. Overall, the polling went on smoothly without major violations observed by FABIO observers, with the exception of a few cases of intimidation, and a handful of instances of polling stations missing key electoral materials, such as stamps.
DEPLOYMENT OF POLLING OFFICIALS
Out of the 86 polling stations at which FABIO through the mobile observers did observation, it was only at one where we witnessed a limited number of polling officials and at this polling station, the polling constable was working as the polling assistant.
Unlike the previous presidential and parliamentary polls from 2016, the 14th January 2021 polls did not have heavy deployment of men in uniform around polling stations as they were mainly seen stationed at strategic places with some patrolling roads.
THE USE OF BVVK TECHNOLOGY AT POLLING STATIONS
15 out of the 86 polling stations observed challenges with the functioning of the Biometric Voter Verification Kits (BVVK) at different intervals which really slowed the polling process. This was mainly attributed to either the electoral officer’s incompetence to operate the machines or wrong codes for the kits given.
OBSERVANCE OF THE COVID-19 SOPs
Out of the 136 polling stations observed by both the mobile observers (86 polling stations) and the stationary observers (50 polling stations), only 63 showed compliance with the COVID-19 regulations (SOPs). The issues were mainly observed with regard to lack of washing facilities, sanitizers and social distancing.
GENDER BALANCE AMONG POLLING OFFICIALS
Gender was appreciated in the deployment of polling officials at the different polling stations that were observed by FABIO. Out of the 318 polling officials posted at 50 polling stations, 148 were women. However, only 19 women worked as presiding officers out of 50 polling stations.
Out of the 86 polling stations observed by the mobile observers, it took an average of 3 minutes for a voter to cast their vote.
AUTHENTICATION OF BALLOT PAPERS
63 Out of the 136 polling stations observed indicated that the polling officials did not stamp the back of each ballot before it was issued to each voter. This could have impacted the validity of such ballots during the vote count. However, at the polling stations where FABIO observed the vote counting process, such unstamped ballots were considered as valid. Nevertheless, the integrity of the electoral process could still be questioned when such a key aspect of the election day process is missing which could have had an impact on the ballot validation.
ASSISTANCE OF VOTERS IN CASTING OF THEIR VOTES
Out of the polling stations observed, 25 had voters assisted to vote by individuals not authorized to do so by the EC regulations i.e. polling officials, EC officials and security agents. This is against the electoral guidelines and might have led to questioning of the moral authority of the polling officials to run a free and fair election.
PRESENCE OF POLITICAL AND CANDIDATE AGENTS AT POLLING STATIONS
Out of the 50 polling stations at which FABIO deployed stationary observers, it was only at one where NRM did not have an agent for the woman member of parliament, while it was only at two polling stations where NUP and FDC did not have agents.
SUSPENSION OR DELAY OF VOTING FOR MORE THAN 10 MINUTES
Polling at 22 out of the 50 polling stations at which FABIO deployed stationary observers reported delayed or suspension of voting for more than 10 minutes. This was mainly attributed to either disruption by rains or failure of the BVVK machines.
PRESENCE OF UNAUTHORISED PERSONS AROUND POLLING STATIONS
9 out of the 50 stationary observers reported the presence of unauthorized persons at the polling stations. These included army men, local defense units and nonuniform but armed individuals.
CLOSING OF POLLING STATIONS
Polling at most of the observed polling stations had started by 10 am and by 4:pm vote counting had started apart from a few polling stations which still had voters still in the queue. Counting was done at the very polling venues apart from areas where it was still raining.
7 out of the 50 polling stations with stationary observers closed for voting before 4pm, 39 between 4:01 pm – 4:30pm, while 4 closed after 5: 00 pm. Apart from those that were observed to close before 4:pm, it was observed in all the respective polling stations, that all the voters in the queue were given a chance to cast their vote.
THE TALLY CENTERS
FABIO deployed six observers at the different tally centers in the different Districts of Jinja City, Jinja, Kamuli, Mayuge, Iganga and Namutumba Districts. One observer was not allowed to monitor the tallying process at Jinja District Tally Centre in the evening of January 14 which was attributed to late accreditation. However, they were allowed in on January 15th after getting accreditation.
THE GENERAL ENVIRONMENT AROUND THE TALLY CENTERS
The environment at the different tally centers was observed to be generally peaceful with mainly police and the army manning the centers.
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. It was only at one tally center in Jinja where some results entered were different from what was captured by the Declaration of Results forms at the polling stations and accordingly a recount of the ballots was done.
ANNOUNCEMENT AND DECLARATION OF RESULTS
The returning officers at the different tally centers immediately after addition of votes did not announce the numbers of votes obtained by each of the presidential candidates in their electoral District. This was only done for the parliamentary candidates where in addition to announcing, the winner was declared.
1.The switching off of the internet affected the effective reporting by the observers as the project could not process the data coming in immediately. Even the critical incidents observed that called for immediate attention could not be brought to the attention of the different stake holders for resolve.
- The accreditation of observers by the electoral commission was very bureaucratic and, in most cases, it was done at the last minute. This affected the observation process in areas like Kamuli and Luuka, the
observers were accredited on the D-day hence making it very difficult to observe the early polling processes like polling stations set up and poll opening.
As we head to the next set of elections on 20th, 25th of January and on 3rd February 2021 FABIO recommends the following to the different stakeholders in the electoral process:
- That the electoral commission intensifies voter education using the different avenues reminding the voters of the electoral process, their rights and obligations. The Electoral Commission should also give due consideration to complaints and appeals.
- That security personnel should not interfere with the process but give confidence to the Ugandans during the entire election period. This could help in increasing on the voter turnout.
- That the different political parties continue mobilizing their supporters to participate actively in the forthcoming sets of elections
- That the media continues with its role of educating and informing the citizenry about their roles and responsibilities till the end of the electoral cycle.
- That as different stakeholders, we continuously engage on the various issues arising as we continue with the electoral cycle and avail immediate resolutions to them.
CONCLUSION ON POLLING
Despite the challenges observed in the pre-election period, the election day altogether went on smoothly with few incidents or minor irregularities that had no significant effect on the integrity of the process. FABIO pledges to go on with the observation of the post-election period emphasizing the post-election incidences and the forthcoming sets of elections for the District, Cities, Municipalities and Sub County representatives and accordingly sharing these with the different stakeholders. FABIO also will be observing election day processes for the above-mentioned elections on the different dates of 20th, 25th of January and the 3rd of February 2021.
25 LTOs have been deployed by FABIO on January 15 and they too will monitor the post-election period, including the electoral violence. The LTO findings will be shared with the public at a later stage.