After casting their ballots, voters will not be allowed to witness the vote counting at polling stations, the Electoral Commission has announced. Uganda goes to polls next week on January 14 to elect the president (11 candidates) and members of parliament.
According to the Electoral Commission chairperson Simon Byabakama, only a few people like agents of candidates, EC officials and security personnel will be allowed at the polling stations during the vote counting process so as to observe the coronavirus Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs). Byabakama made the remarks at a ceremony to dispatch polling materials.
Byabakama says that although it is a right for people to witness the counting of votes, the few people that will remain behind will be enough to ensure transparency of the process. He claims that it is also dangerous to keep people of different political parties and supporters of rival candidates in the same area. As such, he advised voters to go back home immediately after voting.
“It is your right to cast your vote, but you see we’re saying in the Covid era now if you allow overcrowding in the area, then you’re exposing the people to what we’re preventing them from contradicting – when we said social distancing at polling stations. Can you observe social distancing during counting with that excitement? Secondly, we’re saying anything can happen to have the voters of Museveni, the voters of Amuriat, the voters Kabuleta, the voters of Katumba oyee all together. And when they see their candidate losing, they might start chaos,” said Byabakama.
According to the EC guidelines for the sake of transparency, voters have a right to attend and witness the process of counting of votes. The Presidential Elections Act, 2005 says voters can stay at least 20 meters from the polling station.
‘‘Voters who have cast their votes and all other persons in the vicinity of the polling station other than election officers, candidates, candidates’ agents and observers shall stand or sit at least twenty meters away from the table.”
Rogers Bicwa, a polling agent for Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) presidential candidate Gen Mugisha Muntu says people need to protect their votes and ensure transparency during the counting.
“That after voting you leave the polling station, the law talks about 20 metres away from the polling station. So you can’t tell me to leave the polling station after voting, I have to protect my vote. I have a right to stay at the polling station,” says Bicwa.