Uganda Elections 2006: Future Petitions
April 10, 2006: Besigye at the high Court on monday to answer treason charges.
He has dismissed rumours that he will go to war.

Uganda Elections 2006: Future Petitions

Museveni will be sworn in on May 12th 2006.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: April 12, 2006

A lot of water has flown under the bridge since last Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on the election petition. The issue of who will lead Uganda now has been settled.

President Yoweri Museveni will be sworn in on May 12th 2006 as Uganda's President for the next five years after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition that was challenging his victory in the February 23rd presidential polls.

However, the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) insists that President Museveni will be an illegitimate leader since he is going to be president after a flawed election, since the Supreme Court said the lection was not held according to the law.

Even, then, 3 of the 7 judges ruled that the election results be annulled, but the majority (4) felt the irregularities did not affect the election outcome 'substantially'.

FDC president, Dr. Kizza Besigye insists that the majority of Ugandans did not vote for Museveni on February 23rd, but Museveni and the electoral Commission stole the election in favour of long serving Museveni who is set to extend his stay at the helm of the country to 25 years in 2011 when the next presidential elections will be held.

President Museveni and his National Resistance Movement party insist that the dismissal of the petition is an indication that the will of the majority of Ugandans will carry the day for the next five years. According to Adolf Mwesigye, the Minister of State for Constitutional Affairs, the ruling shows that Museveni's next five-year term is both legal and legitimate, since the majority of the judges confirmed that the results declaring Museveni as winner were valid.

But more than the feeling of comfort and discomfort from the ruling, some people are saying the ruling presents serious implications for Uganda's democratic future.

Most people in the opposition say that few if any other election petition is likely to be filed after the Supreme Court ruling that was almost the same as the one of 2001.

Many have said that the Supreme Court ruling does not give losers morale to petition elections because of the demands of producing evidence that the elections were not free and fair with in 10 days and demanding that the petitioner convinces Court that the irregularities had a substantial effect on the election result.

The law on substantial evidence, which does not say how much will be substantial, and especially giving the petitioner 10 days to collect and present evidence from all over the country will continue to be a thorn in the neck of anyone or a party that wants to petition an election. Some people in the opposition say the law was made like that to ensure that no one ever wins an election petition.

But the Supreme Court judges say there is need for general law reform on most election laws to ensure easy tracking and presentation of election behavior by the election governing body. Otherwise if the law remains the way it is, one can almost expect a similar result since judges have no standard measure of what amount constitutes a substantial effect on the election results and which does not.

Dr. Besigye says if the law remains the way it is, many people may now resort to "other courts", like the one Museveni chose after losing the 1980 electionsthat is going to the bush to wage a war. The FDC leader has however stated that neither he nor his party will consider removing the government by force of arms.

For now, the ruling hit most at the electoral commission. The FDC leadership on Monday called on the Electoral Commission to resign since the Supreme Court had found them incompetent and failing to conduct the elections in accordance to the Electoral Commission Act and the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act.

But more than requiring the electoral commission to resign, the important issue is how and if it is possible to have an electoral commission that does not play to the tune of the ruling government that appoints its membership.

Many people had earlier noted that it was impossible to have free and fair elections organized by an electoral commission appointed by the ruling government. To many, the Electoral Commission is more or less a pawn organ to ensure the incumbent retains his seat, and there have been allegations that they act on orders and guidelines from state house, leave alone the laws under which they are supposed to conduct elections always being enacted late or being in favour of the ruling government.

As in the 2001 situation, the government will more than likely dismiss the current electoral commission, after all seven judges found it incompetent. After the 2001 Supreme Court ruling which also expressed concern and condemned the electoral commission's way of conducting the 2001 elections, the government dismissed the Aziz Kasujja led electoral commission "in public interest" only to give most of the former Electoral Commission members big jobs elsewhere. This is a scenario many political analysts are sure will come to pass, since the current electoral commission members will have "done their job" of running an election which the incumbent wins.

But Dr. James Nsaba Buturo, the Information Minister and government spokesman insists that the electoral commission did the best in the situation and that the government had full good will in electing the electoral commission. He says no election can be free from irregularities and the members of opposition parties want a perfect situation, which cannot be, achieved anywhere.

"That is why the law must continue to require substantial evidence in order for the court to overturn an election," Dr. Buturo says.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: April 12, 2006
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Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.