EU Mission to assess progress on Uganda’s 2016 election recommendations

EU Mission to assess progress on Uganda's 2016 election recommendations
Eduard Kukan, headed the EU Election Observer Mission during the 2016 elections

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM) is the country to follow up on its recommendations on the 2016 election.

The team headed by Eduard Kukan, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Slovakia is in the country from today to Thursday March 8. Kukan was the Chief Observer of the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) to the 2016 general elections in Uganda.

A statement from the Head of European Delegation in Uganda says the observers composed of nine analysts will be assessing the implementation of the 30 EU Election Observer Mission recommendations, within the context of the current political developments and the next electoral cycle.

“The EU stands by Uganda in strengthening democratic principles,” said Kukan. “Since 2006 we have accompanied elections in Uganda. Now is the time for opposition and government to rebuild trust ahead of the coming elections,” he said.

Kukan and his team are expected to meet representatives of the authorities, political parties, media and civil society and representatives of the international community. It is expected to publish its report in the coming weeks, upon its conclusion.

The EU Observer Mission report indicates that the February 2016 polls took place in a challenging political environment. It suggested 30 recommendations which it said would better subsequent polls.

The report said the Electoral Commission lacked independence and transparency whereupon the elections fell short of international standards.

The observers said state actors were instrumental in creating an intimidating atmosphere for both voters and candidates, and police used excessive force against the Opposition, media and the general public, justifying it as a “preventive measure”

It observed that regulatory power over the electoral process is currently vested in the Executive, in consultation with the Electoral Commission. It noted that this could interfere with the independence of the Electoral Commission.

The Observer Mission recommended that the Electoral Commission be granted sole regulatory power to further regulate essential parts of the electoral process, including voter registration, polling, tallying and electoral dispute system prior and during the elections.

They said the present demarcation of boundaries shows huge discrepancies between different constituencies with regard to the number of voters and that the current constitutional provisions for boundary delimitation do not enable the Electoral Commission to adhere to the population quota as nearly as possible when demarcating constituencies.

No substantial Electoral reforms have been instituted in the country since the conclusion of the 2016 elections.

Parliament only passed a private Member’s Bill to lift the Presidential term limits. MPs in the Constitutional amendment Bill later assented to by the President also extended the Parliamentary term from five to seven years.

Justice Minister, General Kahinda Otafiire had been adamant to table before Parliament a comprehensive Bill for the electoral reforms as suggested by the EU Observer Mission, other election observers and the Supreme Court directives arising from the Uganda Presidential Election Petition No 1 of 2016.

The court identified 10 key reforms the Attorney General to implement ahead of the next elections.