45 percent of voters in 89 districts across Uganda don’t know the date for the 2016 presidential elections, an opinion poll by Research World International (RWI) has revealed. The opinion poll involved 2,685 registered voters in the districts where it was conducted.
The opinion poll also shows that 91 percent of the respondents enrolled for the National identity cards had picked their cards but of these, 96 percent don’t know their polling stations. Identity cards will be used for voting. The poll was conducted between December 19 2015 to January 10 this year to assess opinions and perceptions of Ugandans of voting-age on the 2016 general elections.
Dr Patrick Wakida, the Director RWI says the findings are disturbing given the fact that numerous attempts have been made to educate voters on the voting process. Electoral Commission accredited more than 60 organizations to conduct civic and voter education ahead of the elections next month.
He attributes the problem to the increase of polling stations from 27,000 in March last year to the current 28,010 polling stations.
“But there is something that we need to discuss. I think sometime in March, there were 27,000 polling stations, today we have about 28,000 polling so it is possible that those who say that they don’t know polling stations actually don’t know them assuming that one polling station was split to create another polling station”, Wakida said.
Charles Mwanguhya a Coordinator Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), one of the organisations that were accredited to carry out civic education. Mwanguhya concurs with the researching findings saying there is hardly any civic education among the public.
He attributes the shocking result to the reluctance by most of the accredited organisations to conduct the needed voter education. Mwanguhya believes this can change if more of organisations refocus their attention to educating the public on the activities of the polling day.
“You see very few organisations actually in the field doing some work. The work that CCEDU like ‘Topowa’ is visible wherever you go but it is not enough. We needed more hand, more resources to be able to bring the population up to speed the concept. People know there is an election, the purpose of the election – them knowing the date [of voting] is an easier thing. We can not afford as a country to abdicate our responsibility and hand it over to the civil society organisations. The Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Electoral Commission, the government of Uganda generally, everyone else should get involved”, Mwanguhya said.
But Paul Bukenya, the deputy Public Relations Officer, Electoral Commission says the poll findings are questionable. According to Bukenya, numerous campaigns have been on for the last three months to remind voters about the polling day.
He however, says there is no cause for alarm given the fact that there are close to thirty days left to the voting day.
“It is coming to three months of campaigns. We have also published the polling and there has been constant reminders to the polling and polling dates for which respective positions. Candidates have been campaigning to close to three and all of them are alluding to polling dates that have been published. It leaves me wondering what exactly we are talking about. There is a continuing engagement and continuing voter education…up to polling day”, Bukenya said.
Bishop Zac Niringiye, the coordinator of The Democratic Alliance (TDA) says that the fact that most people do not know the voting day or where they are supposed to vote indicates that the elections will be rigged.
“45% don’t know the voting day. So who will vote for them? We know, we know! This ticking of ballots that is where it happens. The Electoral Commission has hardly done any voter education. It is as to plan…This illiteracy works for President Museveni and to the NRM and this is very tragic”, the retired Bishop concluded.
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