An election is about people, with people, for people and by people. No election can take place without people. The people must therefore find it meaningful and essential to participate in it.
Two basic processes can get people to the vote; civic education which gets them to understand and appreciate why, the need and importance of their participation in an election; and voter education which guides on how and when to cast a vote.
Unfortunately, none of the above has been effectively undertaken yet in just a few days from now, people will be going to the polls to elect a President, Members of Parliament etc. The absence of civic and voter education/information, all factors remaining constant, is likely to negatively affect voter turnout. A low voter turnout is an expression of a vote of no confidence in the leaders elected and may affect compliance and support to the elected leaders.
A low voter turnout is devastating for growing democracies like Uganda and unfortunately this may be exacerbated due to; lack of confidence and trust in the electoral commission which has for long been associated with release of wrong results, the current human rights abuses to some Presidential candidates and some members of the public, utterances by some key leaders insinuating that the incumbent president is not going anywhere and that power cannot be handed over to aspiring presidential and former presidential candidates, which sends a clear message that no amount of efforts to participate an election will change the leadership.
These discouraging utterances and actions need to be overturned and the EC should take lead.
It should be in the interest of the Electoral commission to score a high voter turnout. Therefore in the remaining days to election days, let the commission intensify sharing of voter information as the current efforts are not adequate. Voters need to know the election days, the voting process or steps including COVID-19 guidelines, how the authentic voter will be identified, the start and end of voting, how the vote counting will be done and how the transmission of results will be secured. The EC should remember that this time round, it is under a credibility test, with the public eye keenly watching. EC should endevour to live up to its vision of being a model institution and centre of excellence in election management and its mission of aiming at efficiently organizing free, fair and transparent elections.
If I may give some advice to the voters, it is your right to go and vote. Registered voters should go and exercise their rights to vote. If the EC is not bringing the information to you, look for it. This is an unusual election and voters should design unusual mechanisms to participate in it. The voices of and desires for change will go mute if voters take this as business as usual. Take a step and go to vote. Should you be tempted to not to vote, know it that if you avoid or shun an election you are actually “electing” the person you do not want to be elected.
John Mary Odoy- Senior Citizen and a promoter of Human Rights and Good governance.
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