KAMPALA – Legislators have demanded that the Electoral Commission re-opens registration of voters in order to accommodate persons turning 18 before the general election next year.
The members debating a statement by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Ephraim Kamuntu, said that the early closing of voter registration will deny over one million people turning 18 the chance to vote in the election. They argued that it was necessary to reopen the registration as the Constitution of Uganda guarantees all citizens who have turned 18 years before election date the right to register and vote.
According to the EC roadmap, the update of the voters’ register ended on 17 December 2019.
Minister Kamuntu said that the enormous and complex operational requirements of conducting the elections make it difficult for the EC to re-open the registration exercise.
“The EC is not able to re-open the updates of the voters register as been requested by some MPs. EC has only adjusted timelines of nomination of Presidential and Parliamentary candidates,” he said.
He explained that according to the roadmap, already published by EC, nomination for special interest groups including youth, people with disabilities, army and workers are set to begin on 6 April 2020, adding that the nominations and processes must use the same voters register that are used in the general elections.
However, the Shadow Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Medard Ssegonna, cautioned that failure to re-open the register, will deny some Ugandans the privilege to be led by leaders of their choice.
“I agree that there is need for orderliness and planning, however, what we need is to strike a balance between the rights of those individuals that turn 18 along the way, and the right for orderliness,” he said.
Hon. Veronica Bichetero Eragu (NRM, Kaberamaido County) advised that the deadline of the voter’s register update should be moved closer to the polling date, to allow all eligible Ugandans to participate in the electoral process.
“It is not realistic to cut off people from voting one year to the elections. There are so many people who will be left out if Parliament does not act,” she said.
Hon. Abbas Agaba (NRM, Kitgwenda County) re-echoed a proposal by lawmakers to adjust the nomination dates of special interest groups, to allow for the re-opening of the voters register.
Hon. Margaret Komuhangi (NRM, Nakasongala district) however said that re-opening the voters’ register is not necessary adding that it will affect the election roadmap.
“If a citizen has not yet made 18 years at the time of voter register update, they should wait for the next election. EC cannot keep registering all through until the eve of the election. They have display the register in advance,” she said.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga directed the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to resolve the impasse on re-opening of update of voter’s register to include citizens who will turn 18 years before the upcoming general elections.