KAMPALA – The Electoral Commission (EC) has warned those interested in taking up elective positions in the 2021elections against early campaigns.
In a press briefing in Soroti Town at the weekend, Mr Deo Natukunda, the EC officer for eastern region, said candidates can only conduct open campaigns after nomination.
“Some people have already printed posters and calendars, which are currently being distributed to electorates before the electoral period, and others are moving up and down in public places to conduct open campaigns. I wonder whose road map these people are following,” Mr Natukunda said.
He warned that early campaigns can lead to disqualification of candidates.
“That is illegal, and whoever is doing that is doing it at his own risk because we shall not tolerate it,” Mr Natukunda warned.
He clarified that all candidates will be issued with electoral guidelines.
“People should stop campaigning because it’s not time for campaigns because anybody can sue you for being irresponsible when you start early campaigns,” Mr Natukunda said.
He called upon residents to report all incidents of early campaigns to the Electoral Commission.
Mr Natukunda told voters in the newly created Kapelebyong and Kalaki districts to forget about elections until 202. “As Electoral Commission, we have failed to organize elections in Kapelebyong and Kalaki due to lack of funds,” he said.
The EC warning comes as incumbent leaders in Kayunga District are crying foul after aspirants for various political positions in the area are allegedly engaging in early campaigns.
The incumbents claim the trend is distracting them from serving their constituents and fulfilling their campaign manifestos.
Different aspirants are traversing various constituencies during day and night, meeting voters, which has on some occasions resulted in clashes between supporters of rival camps.
The alleged early campaigns involve aspirants addressing rallies, organising meetings, distributing campaign materials, putting up campaign posters and openly soliciting for votes.
The complainants include Mr Amos Lugoloobi (Ntenjeru North), Mr George Kumama (Bbaale County), Mr Fred Baseke (Ntenjeru South) and the district chairperson, Mr Tom Sserwanga.
“Because my political opponents are in my constituency and actively campaigning, I am forced to abandon some official work in Parliament to come and clarify what they are talking behind my back,” Mr Lugoloobi said in an interview at the weekend.
Mr Lugoloobi, who asked for EC intervention, said the culprits should be arrested and prosecuted since the incumbents were duly elected to serve five years.
However, the aspirants are accusing incumbents of failing to deliver on electorate’s expectations.
According to Section 3 of Presidential Elections Act 2005, political aspirants are free to consult in preparation for nominations but they [consultations] should be distinguished from campaigns, which take the form of distributing materials, campaigns, holding rallies and meetings and canvassing for votes. During consultations, the aspirants are also supposed to introduce themselves to EC and notify the relevant local council leaders and the police in the area .
Among those who are aspiring to unseat Mr Lugoloobi include Mr Ffeffekka Sserubogo, the district People Power coordinator, and Eng Fredrick Ssali.
However, Mr Ffeffekka dismissed the claims by Mr Lugoloobi, noting that the political meetings they are carrying out are allowed by EC.
“We are visiting places of worship like President Museveni, who is moving around the country dishing out money to youth and women. He is campaigning and not holding rallies. This is allowed,” Mr Ffeffekka said.
Mr Kumama on his part complained that the aspirants are using the early campaigns to ‘tell lies’ about him, forcing him to always keep in the constituency even when he is supposed to be in Parliament to represent his people.
“The situation is a mess because it is as if we are already in the campaign period,” Mr Kumama said.
Among those aspiring to unseat Mr Kumama include Mr Charles Tebandeke and Mr Swaliki Bunanyuma -both subscribing to People Power pressure group and Mr Sulaiman Madada, a former State Minister for Elderly, who belongs to the ruling NRM party.
The district returning officer, Mr Rashid Musinguzi, asked the complainants to lodge a formal complaint with EC.
“We shall involve security when we get evidence that the aspirants are carrying out early campaigns. We would be grateful if we get a formal complaint backed with evidence,” Mr Musinguzi said.
Mr Jotham Taremwa, the EC spokesperson, said they will educate the aspirants about the electoral process.
Kayunga District Police commander, Mr John Lukooto, said it is challenging for police to get evidence that one is engaging in early campaigns.
“We are aware that aspiring candidates are organising football tournaments, others are making donations in churches and mosques, but this is not enough evidence. The only evidence we can rely on is when an aspirant makes campaign posters now and display them with the message Vote for so and so” Mr Lukooto said.