The just concluded Uganda 2016 general elections have been reported to have been marked 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 and Chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Uganda 2016 General Elections, Olusegun Obasanjo, while delivering the observers’ interim assessment yesterday, said that, “once again these elections fell short of meeting key democratic benchmarks”.
Addressing journalists in Kampala, Obasanjo stated that, “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.”
Obasanjo however 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.
As voting ended in Uganda yesterday, amid concerns, incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, again coasted to victory by emerging the country’s president for a fifth tenure.
Museveni seized power in 1986 and is credited with restoring stability to Uganda just as critics believe that he is increasingly authoritarian.
The 71-year-old who defeated his closet rival, Kizaa Besigye, polled 60.75 per cent votes as against 35 per cent votes by his opponent.
With the victory, Museveni extended his 30 years in office.
The election was marred by sporadic violence and opposition allegations of electoral fraud, while the social media sites and messaging apps were blocked.
Reacting, Besigye who is under house arrest described the results as sham even as he called on the international community to reject the result.
“We have just witnessed what must be the most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda,” he said in a statement.
EU observers criticised the poll, saying that the governing party had created an intimidating atmosphere that the opposition alleged rigging.
The main opposition challenger Kizza Besigye was placed under house arrest on allegation that he would announce the results himself, breaking electoral laws, police said.
It is the fourth time Mr Besigye, candidate for the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, has taken on President Museveni.
The two men were once allies, with Mr Besigye serving as Mr
Museveni’s personal doctor when they were guerrilla fighters.
The next closest challenger to Mr Museveni, former Prime
Minister Amama Mbabazi, was also reportedly under house as voting took place.
Also, former Central African Republic prime minister Faustin-Archange Touadera, won a presidential run-off, the electoral commission announced on Saturday, in what was widely seen as a step towards reconciliation after years of violent turmoil.
According to a report by Reuters, Touadera won 62.71 per cent of votes cast in the Feb. 14 election, according to provisional results announced by National Elections Authority (ANE) president Marie-Madeleine Nkouet.
Anicet-Georges Dologuele, also a former prime minister, won 37.29 percent, reversing the two rivals’ rankings from the first round. Dologuele said he would accept the results, despite what he called “massive fraud” in the second round.
“For the sake of peace, I choose to respect the provisional results published by the ANE and to renounce an appeal to the constitutional court … and to recognise Faustin Archange Touadera as the leader of all central Africans,” he told reporters at his home shortly after the results were released.
Touadera’s spokesman called for calm and asked the country’s population of 5 million to accompany the new leader in his pursuit of “reconciliation and recovery”.
Foreign observers praised the peaceful nature of the polls but have not yet commented on Saturday’s results.
The election results must be certified by the Constitutional Court within eight days to become final.
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