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EC Bans Rallies as It Pushes Ahead with 2021 Elections

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Speculation as to whether there will be elections in 2021 is finally over with the Electoral Commission, the body charged with organizing elections in Uganda coming out today to announce a revised electoral roadmap.

This is not going to be a conventional election like we have known it, where candidates traverse the country campaigning by holding mass rallies to explain their manifestos.

This time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mass gatherings of people will not be permitted in compliance with Ministry of Health directives on controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of rallies and other person-to-person campaigns, candidates are going to use the media to reach their voters, according to guidelines announced by Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, the Electoral Commission chairperson.

He was speaking during a press conference held at the EC headquarters in Kampala.

He said that the Electoral Commission had looked at all provisions of the constitution and all allow them to undertake these unprecedented measures.

On whether candidates who are affiliated to the government and those who own radio station won’t have undue advantage over their competitors, Byabakama said he’s going to talk to the relevant authorities to ensure a level playing field.

For places which can’t pick signals from Ugandan radio stations such as those near the border like in the Sebei sub-region, Byabakama said he’s going to talk to the Uganda Communication Commission and the Ministry of Information to allow the return of community radios’ [ebizindaalo] to enable such areas to also be part of the national exercise.

Asked whether they shouldn’t have postponed the election to such a time when COVID-19 is no-longer a threat and compensate for the time lost, Byabakama said they have to operate within the remaining time-frame to comply with the dictates of the constitution that make it mandatory to organize an election within 120 days to the end of the term of a sitting president, parliament or local council.

He called on political parties to ensure that in all they do, the people’s lives take centre stage. He said that they are going to ensure that these measures are complied with.

According to the revised roadmap, political parties are supposed to hold party primaries between June 22 and July 21. There will be nominations for candidates for local government elections including the Special Interest Groups between September 7 to 17.

For parliamentary elections, the nominations will be held between October 12 to 13. While presidential nominations will be held between November 2-3. Parliamentary digital campaigns will be held between October 20 to January 8 whereas presidential campaigns which will also be digital will be held between November 10 to January 8.

The Electoral Commission said that the polling period for the whole 2021 elections will be between January 10 and February 8.

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