Presidential aspirants and former candidates have said the virtual campaigns adopted by the Electoral Commission (EC) for the 2021 General Election have been designed to favour the incumbent.
Last Monday, the EC unveiled the revised roadmap for next year’s elections and banned public rallies in line with social distancing measures put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
According to the roadmap, presidential hopefuls have 59 days to convince Ugandans to entrust them with the highest office in the land using only media platforms such as radio, television and other online platforms.
However, many argue that scientific campaigns are a disadvantage to voters and the candidates.
Democratic Party (DP) president general Norbert Mao, who has also expressed interest to stand for president, said all stakeholders should have been consulted and considered in order to create a level playing field.
“An election is about getting people to interact with voters and also ensuring the voters have every opportunity to make an informed decision. This proposal by the EC about scientific elections undermines everything about free and fair elections,” Mr Mao said.
Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, reiterated Mr Mao’s words, suggesting that the election is called off so that stakeholder parties can be consulted first.
“The Commission is essentially communicating a decree from President Museveni, who as all Ugandans know is very afraid of competition and has used the Covid-19 pandemic to further tighten the noose on Opposition political activities,” Bobi Wine said.
Four-time presidential aspirant Kizza Besigye also dismissed the virtual campaigns, saying they only favour President Museveni.
“President Museveni destroyed all safeguards for peace and crippled institutions and now he has brought this kind of campaign method. His stolen term ends May 2021; Uganda continues,” he said.
Former presidential candidate Aggrey Awori said despite the hardships the virtual campaigns will come with, it may deliver a free and fair election.
“They can do door-to-door campaigns or literally call in radio talk shows because the presenters will not know who is calling. There are certainly many hardships but they can come up with means to give those being favoured by the virtual election a run for their money,”
Ms Maureen Kyalya, a former presidential candidate, said: “President Museveni is fearing Mr Kyagulanyi because the latter will pool more crowds than him. When I contested, he used money and bought voters and now Kyagulanyi has come and they want to ban rallies. This will be a difficult thing in Uganda where there are few radio stations.”
Mr Elton Joseph Mabirizi, an aspirant in the 2016 presidential election, said: “I have already instructed my lawyer to take the Electoral Commission to court. We shall defy, we shall go ahead with the normal way of campaign by carrying out our rallies but putting into consideration the guidelines put in place by the Ministry of Health.”