EC was not obliged to consult political parties before unveiling new roadmap , says Byabakama

The Electoral Commission chairman Justice Simon Byabakama has said that there was no need for consulting political parties prior to releasing the revised electoral roadmap.

Different political players have since the release of the roadmap on Tuesday expressed strong opposition mainly citing failure by the Electoral Commission to consult them. In the revised roadmap, the EC banned open-air campaigns ahead of the 2021 campaigns and general elections and advised contender to utilise digital platforms.

However, speaking to senior political journalists at the EC headquarters in response to reservations by political players, Byabakama said that under Section 12 Electoral Commission Act, they are required to ensure that candidates campaign in an orderly and organized manner. He emphasized that it is the duty of the EC to direct how candidates will campaign since it is an independent body obliged to do its work without influence from anybody.

Specifically addressing the argument of the Commission’s failure to consult stakeholders, Byabakama said that the constitution stipulates that the exercise of the EC functions shall not be subject to the control or authority of any person.

“When we were rolling out the roadmap in 2018, it was the handwork of the Commission as required by the Constitution. When we are revising this roadmap in the context of the prevailing circumstances, it is the work of the Commission,” he said.

He explained that it was not necessary to consult political parties before releasing the revised roadmap since the political parties even find it difficult to generate consensus for their internal issues. Byabakama says that they can now only encourage political players to raise any issues on the revised roadmap to see how they can drive forward the electoral process.

But he revealed that he met Yoweri Museveni, not as a candidate in the upcoming general election but as President of the country. According to Byabakama, EC met the President not to consult on the roadmap but as a key decision-maker in regard to their budget for the election and the relocation of the headquarters of the commission.

The Uganda National Roads Authority gave EC up to July next year to vacate in order to pave way for the Kampala- Jinja Express way construction paper project.

The EC chairperson also noted that they have been benchmarking with other countries which have held elections during the Covid-19 pandemic like Benin and Burundi but decided to choose to have electronic campaigns following a thorough discussion with the Ministry of Health.