By Frank Tumwebaze
The idea of postponing elections being touted by some political actors is not only illogical but also an escapist strategy of those wanting scape goats to justify their impending defeat.
You can only postpone the elections if you have an idea of how long the #COVIDー19 pandemic will take. What if it takes 10 years, do u postpone for 10 years or indefinitely?
The only limitation the #Corona pandemic puts on our electioneering process is the issue of having NO gatherings/rallies since these compromise social distancing protocals. The rest of the electoral activities ( nomination, voting, etc ) remain as usual. What political actors need to build consensus on soberly is how the messages can reach the electorate to enable them make choices at the ballot?
Campaigning via mass media is not new. Globally, campaign spend is largely on media adverts because of the bigger audiences reached simultaneously. Physical rallies compared to media messages are always ranked much below. The latter enables the candidate to effectively reach & influence many multiple audiences in different locations simultaneously as opposed to the former. The required honest discussion we need to engage in is; how to ensure that all contenders access equal media space. One strategy to achieve this would be to support the electoral commission with more budget resources so as to buy media space for all contenders and thus create a level ground for all.
We could also discuss how to conduct sizeable political meetings (NOT rallies) between candidates and their select campaigners/agents to plan & execute better their canvassing programs. For example a candidate ( with discipline ofcourse ) can be allowed to conduct a meeting of about 100 people per county or district in an open ground THAT facilitates social distancing. This way, you achieve both the physical outreach of the candidate to interface with his/her campaign network but also enable compliance with the pandemic prevention guidelines. Afterall, even the usual campaign rallies that take so much time, energy & logistics, are always a small sample size of the wider voting population.
If candidates can all access mediums of communication and are able to meet their agents to plan for their Campaign operations, then the election can take place. But refusing to discuss objectively these issues and roundly call for postponement or insist on conducting the election the usual way as if #COVIDー19 is unreal, is nothing else but irresponsible politicking.
The limitation of having no rallies affects all parties, the #NRM inclusive. Let’s discuss these issues logically and objectively and put aside the usual rhetoric of blame games. Even when we didn’t have the so called “scientific” elections, complaints against the electoral process from the usual groups complaining now have always come up, but these never stopped Ugandans from exercising their constitutional rights of choosing their leaders.
Frank k. TUMWEBAZE, MP
Minister of Gender, Labour and Social development