By Sam Omoding
The Electoral Commission (EC) has issued a new roadmap for the 2021 General Election, declaring that the campaigns will be conducted digitally but maintaining the Election Day in January/February.
According to the road map issued by the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, presidential candidates will only have two months (November to January 2021) to conduct digital campaigns via platforms such as radio, TV, social media and Zoom.
Digital campaigns for Local Government aspirants will take place between 28th September 2020 and 8th January 2021; those for Parliamentary Elections will take place between 20th October 2020 and 8th January 2021.
Those for Presidential Elections will take place between 10th November 2020 and 8th January 2021. Polling period for General Elections (exact polling dates to be appointed in due course) will take place between 10th January and 8th February 2021.
Political Party and Organizations will have to identify flag bearers between 22nd June and 21st July 2020; public servants wishing to participate in Special Interest Groups (SIGs) Committees Elections have until June 29 to resign from public service jobs while Nomination of Village SIGs (Older Persons, Persons with Disability and Youth) Committees Candidates has been scheduled for August 5.
The deadline for establishment of academic papers with Electoral Commission by aspiring candidates for Local Government is July 7 while the deadline for the parliamentary aspirants is August 11. That for presidential candidates is September 1.
Public servants aspiring to contest for Parliamentary Elections have up to July 12 to resign their seats; while those aspiring to contest for Local Government Councils Elections have up to august 6 to resign their public service jobs.
Public servants aspiring to contest for Presidential Elections have up to October 31 to resign their public offices.
Period for nomination of candidates for Local Governments, including Special Interest Groups (SIGs), has been set for September 7 to September 17; Nomination of Candidates for Parliamentary Elections will take place from September 12-September 13 while nominations for Candidates for Presidential Elections will take place on November 2 and November 3.
According to Justice Byabakama, the Roadmap has been revised with careful consideration of the operational requirements for the electoral activities and the legal framework governing the conduct of elections, however, under reduced timeframes.
“Given the Covid-19 pandemic, and health risks involved and the expectations during the electoral activities, preparations and conduct of these elections will take different modes. The Commission has done a risk analysis, the implications and instituted mitigation measures in line with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.
We have also considered the need to preserve the health of the Citizens vis a vis their constitutional and democratic right to elect leaders of their choice as guaranteed under the Constitution, and come up with a plan that ensures minimal person-to-person contact during the implementation of the electoral process,” he said.
For example, Justice Byabakama said, the Commission will avail nomination forms on its website that can be printed by those with access to the internet. However, for those with no access to internet, hard copies will be availed.
“Important to note is that we will only allow an aspiring candidate with only two (2) people; the nominator and a seconder.
Mass rallies will not be allowed but campaigns will be conducted mainly through media. The Commission will issue specific guidelines for each electoral activity under this revised Roadmap in due course and will engage with various stakeholders on the same.
This includes detailed information on specific requirements for nomination as a candidate, access to nomination forms, nomination fees and venues and conduct of campaigns and polling process,” he said.
Furthermore, the EC chairperson said the Commission in consultation with the Ministry of Health considered and adopted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to facilitate safe participation by all stakeholders in the electoral process.
These emphasize safe practices, which have been customized to elections and electoral process include; Practicing social distancing; Wearing face masks in public; and Regular washing of hands.
“The Commission calls upon all stakeholders in the electoral process to take note of the various activities that will be conducted under the Roadmap, and especially the respective timelines, so that they participate accordingly.
The Commission further appeals to political parties and organizations as well as individuals aspiring to contest as independent candidates, to utilize the limited time provided in the revised Roadmap, and prepare to participate in the respective activities. More appeal goes to media owners to avail opportunities to all the candidates for fair coverage,” he said.
The Commission advised political parties and aspiring independent candidates to ensure safe practices during primaries and other preparatory activities. Candidates, their agents and supporters are urged to strictly follow the guidelines on public meetings as issued by the Ministry of Health.