By Kevin Patrice
Uganda is supposed to go to the polls in 2021. But the coronavirus pandemic has led to the declaration of a lockdown to avoid further spread. Political rallies and meetings, an important part of the elections were the first to be banned when Museveni announced his first raft of measures aimed at combating the deadly respiratory disease in March 2020.
With the lockdown extended twice now and the number of cases increasing, especially from cross border truck drivers, some Ugandans have been discussing the possibility of extending the 2021 presidential, parliamentary and local government elections to deny the viral disease a chance of transmission during campaign time and voting period which normally involve people converging at venues in places where they live.
But in an interview with NBS TV, President Museveni has explained that the decision to hold elections in 2021 or to postpone them beyond that period will be determine either in June or July 2020, and will depend on the number of infections and projections as informed by scientists’ surveys.
“Well, if the virus can stop around June or even July, what’s the problem, we can have elections. We don’t have to have a long campaign period. Elections are not a big issue, we can organize quickly,” said Museveni. “The problem will be having elections when the virus is still around. It will be madness for people to gather.”
This means that Museveni might rein over the Electoral Commission (EC) to push elections beyond 2021 if scientists advise that it is not wise to hold elections in the next eight months. But to do that Museveni will need to convince MPs, with whom he is currently at loggerheads, to push through his emergency declaration as required by the Constitution.
If the numbers don’t increase significantly beyond what is manageable by the country’s healthcare system, then elections could be held but with tough instructions to observe Standard Operating Procedures. At the end of the current lockdown, Museveni will receive a report from the Ministry of Health (MoH) on the rate of Covid19 community transmissions as will have been found out in the rapid surveys currently being carried out among communities and people mostly at risk of contracting or spreading Covid19.