Uganda’s opposition and civil society groups have accused the electoral commission of bias and hypocrisy after the electoral body harshly warned former Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi to desist from “consulting” with his supporters.
The groups said it appeared that the electoral commission was doing the bidding of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement to scuttle Mbabazi’s quest to contest next year’s presidential election.
Mbabazi was recently the general secretary of the ruling party until he fell out with Museveni. He has since declared his intention to challenge the president in next year’s poll.
Ugandan law prevents people from official campaigning or addressing public mass rallies until they have been nominated to represent a political party ahead of an election.
Jotham Taremwa, spokesman for the electoral commission, said, “We have not yet carried out nominations. These aspirants are supposed to be conducting consultations and getting signatures using their agents, but if somebody defies that and goes about campaigning and addressing public rallies, [between] the electoral commission and that aspirant, who is right under the law? Definitely, we are right.”
Critics said the electoral commission was to blame for the confusion, issuing nomination forms to aspirants before releasing clear and specific guidelines for consultative meetings.
“We put out a road map indicating the activities and their timeframe. … Mbabazi knows there is a difference between conducting consultation and conducting campaigns or addressing rallies. My request to him is that he gets back and follows the law. He should not be the person breaking the law," Taremwa said.
Local media quoted opposition Democratic Party Secretary General Mathias Nsubuga as saying the electoral body’s focus on Mbabazi was an act of “double standards.”
“We have always said the EC belongs to NRM, and we have been vindicated," he said. "Mr. Mbabazi is advertising himself to the people who are going to nominate him as a presidential aspirant. EC is playing politics and we condemn their actions.”
The opposition has demanded an independent electoral commission, saying the current electoral body only does the bidding of the ruling NRM.