KAMPALA- The Electoral Commission has issued stringent Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on conduct of pre-nomination, nomination and campaign activities for the 2020/21 general election.
While addressing the press on the progress of roadmap for the 2020/21 general elections, EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama said the SOPs incorporated measures and guidelines were put in place by the Ministry of Health.
“…and the outcome of consultations made by the various stakeholders in the electoral process to prevent and combat person to person, person to object and object to person spread of the COVID -19 during the conduct of election activities,” he added.
*SOPs for Issuance and Receipt of Nomination Guidelines andv Nomination Forms*
In order to prevent the spread of COVID -19 during the issuance of Nomination Papers, Byabakama revealed that soft copies of nomination forms and relevant guidelines have been uploaded on the Electoral Commission website and aspiring candidates may access them using the link www.ec.or.ug.
“Hard copies of the nomination papers may be picked from the Electoral Commission Head Office by the aspiring presidential candidates or their agents, and from the offices of the respective District Returning Officers for aspirants to the general Parliamentary and Local Government Council elections, starting on Monday,August 10, 2020,” he said.
According to the EC boss, both the Election Officials, aspiring candidates and agents, have the obligation to ensure compliance in the wearing of masks, washing of hands, use of sanitizers; and observation of social distancing, during the issuance and receipt of nomination papers.
“The Commission has further uploaded all the necessary guidelines for the Presidential, general Parliamentary and Local Government Council elections.”
*SOPs for Collection of Supporters Signatures*
Byabakama revealed that all aspiring candidates and respective agents, while accessing and leaving the homes of the voters required to sign their nomination forms, shall be required to wash hands and wear the recommended face masks.
“All voters signing and/or thumb printing a nomination paper shall be required to wear the recommended face masks at all times and wash hands before and after signing and/or thumb printing a nomination paper,” he said.
Adding that, “Both the voters and aspiring candidates/agents have the obligation to ensure compliance in the wearing of masks, washing of hands, use of sanitizers; and observation of social distancing.”
*SOPs for Conduct of Nomination Activities*
The Commission shall provide hand washing facilities and sanitizers at all the nomination venues; and the aspiring candidate, proposer and seconder shall be required to wash hands while accessing and exiting the nomination venue Byabakama told the media.
He noted that the aspiring candidate, appearing in person, shall be allowed into the nomination venue accompanied by 2 persons (Seconder and Proposer), who shall be required to wear masks at all times.
“Aspiring candidates are advised to use only two vehicles for purposes of his/her nominations; and each vehicle should not carry more than 4 persons, driver inclusive, for a saloon/SUV. Each of the vehicles shall bear a police sticker,” he said.
For the avoidance of doubt, Byabakama said the incumbent President, if he is an aspiring candidate, shall use such number of vehicles as is ordinarily attached to his office.
The respective Returning Officers conducting nominations shall be required to wash hands, use gloves and wear the recommended face masks while conducting nominations.
All other election officials and the security personnel deployed at the Nomination Venues shall at all times wear the recommended masks and gloves.
Hand washing with water and soap and use of sanitizers shall be mandatory for all before accessing the Nomination Venues.
All persons accessing the nomination venues shall have their temperature taken and required to go through normal security checks and observe social distancing.
Motor vehicle and motorcycle convoys and crowds of supporters shall not be allowed during the period designated for nominations.
All facilities at the nomination venues – tables, chairs, door handles, etc., shall be sanitized and/or disinfected regularly to mitigate the spread of COVID -19.
*SOPs for Conduct of Campaign Meetings*
Following the Ministry of Health measures to, among others, control public gatherings, Byabakama emphasized that candidates’ public/mass rallies remain banned.
“Candidates may organise/hold regulated campaign meetings. Conveners of such meetings and venue owners should ensure that measures and guidelines put in place by the Ministry of Health to prevent and combat the spread of COVID -19 are strictly observed and shall ensure social distancing, wearing of masks and washing of hands,” he said.
He said all identified meeting venues should preferably be outdoor to enable observance of the social distancing of at least 2 meters apart for the persons attending the meeting/campaigns.
Conveners of meetings should notify the police authority in the respective area on the identified venues which shall be inspected for suitability in regard to compliance with the Ministry of Health guidelines.
All candidates shall ensure that they comply with the harmonized campaign meetings programmes and that the identified meeting venues enable the electorate comply with the Ministry of Health Measures and Guidelines on COVID-19.
For the avoidance of doubt, Justice Byabakama said a candidate’s agent may conduct regulated campaign meetings on behalf of the candidate as permitted to do under the electoral laws, but in compliance with the said Ministry of Health Measures and Guidelines.
“Candidates and/or their agents shall ensure that campaign meetings do not go beyond 6.00 pm on each of the campaign days,”Byabakama said.
He added that, “All candidates, conveners and venue owners shall ensure that the campaign/meeting venues are provided with hand washing facilities and sanitizers; and the candidates shall ensure that the supporters attending the campaigns/meetings wash hands and at all times wear masks while accessing and exiting the meeting venue.”
All candidates have been advised to desist from holding mass rallies; conducting processions from one meeting to another. Similarly, convoys and crowds of supporters shall not be allowed outside the designated Meeting Venues.
According to Byabakama, Hand washing with water and soap and use of sanitizers shall be mandatory for all before accessing and exiting the Campaign Meeting Venues.
“All candidates shall ensure that facilities at the meeting venues – tables, chairs, door handles, etc., are sanitized and/or disinfected to mitigate the spread of COVID -19.”
*Use of Media for Political Campaigns*
All candidates have been advised to conduct their media engagements in accordance with the programs submitted to the respective Returning Officers and harmonized by the respective media houses. Accordingly, all nominated candidates are advised to submit to the Returning Officer, a copy of their proposed campaign meetings and media campaign programmes.
Byabakama noted that all political parties and organizations sponsoring candidates are similarly advised to submit to the respective Returning Officers their political party broadcasts programmes.
“The Commission will, through the Uganda Communication Commission require all media houses (privately owned inclusive) to make public their rate cards, availability of time, the broadcasting schedule and cost of presenting their programs and allocate time to the candidates,” he promised.
Candidates and their agents have been encouraged to use other non-contact means of communication, that is, broadcasting, publishing, cell and web-based platforms, to interact with the electorate during the campaign period. This includes fliers, posters, banners, radio and TV announcements, radio and TV talk shows, SMS, voice messaging, new digital media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and websites.
During the campaign period, Byabakama said candidates may use the Community Based Public Address Systems (kizindaalo) and a program for usage should be communicated by the candidates/agents to the respective Returning Officers.
He added that the Commission shall ensure that all presidential candidates are given equal treatment on State-owned media to present their programs to the people.
“A State-owned media house shall, within fourteen days after nomination day,notify in writing all presidential candidates of the availability of time,the broadcasting schedule and cost of presenting their programs and shall allocate time to the candidates,” he said.