Commonwealth Observer Group says Uganda’s 2016 general election fell short of meeting key democratic benchmarks as it was marred by a lack of a level electoral playing field, an increased prevalence of money in politics, alleged misuse of state resources inequitable media coverage and question marks over the secrecy of the ballot and the competence of the Electoral Commission to manage the process.
Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group to the 2016 General Elections disclosed this while delivering the observers’ interim assessment.
Addressing journalists in Kampala, President Obasanjo stated: “While the presidential elections were competitive with regard to the number of candidates, practical restrictions on basic freedoms of assembly and movement affected the fairness of the campaign for opposition candidates.
“Moreover, the overall competitiveness of the campaign was compromised by a lack of transparency with regard to campaign financing. The Group noted with concern that the fusing of the state and ruling party in Uganda – highlighted by previous Commonwealth observers – had deepened, with a consequent adverse impact on political freedoms and further undermining any efforts to level the playing field for these elections.”
Chief Obasanjo further commended the commitment shown by voters despite what he described as “inexcusable” delays at many polling stations.
In response to reported incidents of violence since the close of polls, the Chair said: “I reiterate my call to all Ugandans to allow the results process to conclude in an atmosphere of peace, and urge that any challenges be conducted through the legal process”.
The Commonwealth Observer Group, composed of eminent persons drawn from across the Commonwealth, was appointed by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma. The mandate of the Commonwealth Observer Group is to observe the preparations for the election, the polling, counting and the results processes, and the overall electoral environment.
The observers are tasked with assessing whether the elections were conducted according to the standards to which Uganda has committed, including domestic law and relevant regional, Commonwealth and other international standards. The observers are bound by the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.
The Commonwealth Observer Group arrived in Uganda on 11 February and will remain in the country while they complete their final report. The report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of the Republic of Uganda, Electoral Commission, political parties, and all Commonwealth governments. It will shortly thereafter be made public.