Following an invitation from the Ugandan authorities, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) was established on 28 December 2015.
The EU EOM was led by the Chief Observer, Mr. E.Kukan, Member of the European Parliament, from Slovakia and composed of over 130 observers who were deployed across the country.
The EU EOM is independent in its findings and conclusions and adheres to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation signed at the United Nations in October 2005.
The EU EOM presented its Final Report to Government, Uganda’s key political parties and civil society this week.
The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the electoral process against Uganda’s international and regional commitments to democratic elections and follows up on the mission’s Preliminary and Post-Election Day Statements.
“The 2016 elections took place in a challenging political environment, exposing significant division between the state apparatus and large parts of the population,” summarised the Chief Observer, Mr. Eduard Kukan, Member of the European Parliament from Slovakia.
The final Report includes a list of 30 recommendations for consideration by the authorities and other electoral stakeholders on how to improve future elections and to grant the electorate a full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms throughout the electoral period, including after the election day.
The EU EOM singled out 11 priority recommendations tailored to address key issues that hampered the 2016 elections.
“It is paramount to establish an inclusive and transparent selection, appointment and removal mechanism for the EC commissioners. The EC’s integrity should be further strengthened by engaging civil society in the selection and subjecting proposed candidates to public scrutiny,” said Mr. Kukan, noting that the EC lacked independence and transparency, whereupon the elections fell short of international obligations for the conduct of democratic elections at key stages.
The EU EOM acknowledges the remarkable determination of Ugandans to engage in the democratic process.
However, the Final Report also refers to incidents of intimidation and harassment of opposition and voters, emphasising that the restrictive interpretation of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) paved the way for reinforcing state control and for curbing the right of assembly and expression.
Thus, the EU EOM calls to repel the provision providing for the police’s right to disperse meetings, and to amend the POMA so, so that it is unequivocally clear that only a notification to the police is sufficient to hold a public meeting.
Furthermore, the EOM recommends measures to ensure police accountability should be implemented.
The Final Report also takes note of the orchestrated use of state resources and personnel for campaign purposes.
Thus, the EOM recommends steps to clearly differentiate the state from the ruling party in an electoral context.
While noting that some commercial media offered a pluralistic discourse, the overall reporting environment was restrictive yielding coverage that was overwhelmingly in favour of the incumbent.
Therefore the EOM recommends a comprehensive and effective mechanism granting equitable coverage of all electoral contestants in media.
The EU EOM commends voters’ resoluteness on election day, yet notes that the process of tallying of results lacked transparency and safeguards against electoral malpractice.
“Clear and detailed provisions for tallying of results should be established and systematically implemented at all stages,” Mr. Kukan noted, adding that online publishing of disaggregated data per polling station immediately after each announcement of the collated results would contribute to the transparency and credibility.
Further recommendations include measures to grant a level playing field during the campaign, to ensure equality of the vote and to provide for respect for electoral participant’s rights to an effective remedy.
The EU EOM recommends the introduction of a state subsidy for both presidential and parliamentary candidates; calls for the review of the boundary delimitation provisions, advocates for an enactment of detailed complaints procedures and considers that a monitoring system of campaign violations should be established.
Final report is available at: http://eeas.europa.eu/eueom/missions/2016/uganda/index_en.htm