Opposition leaders in Iganga district have accused Electoral Commission (EC) of delivering ballot boxes without or with broken seals which they say creates suspicions of possible vote-rigging before the polling day next week.
It was observed that out of the 323 ballot boxes received at the Iganga district headquarters on Wednesday evening, five lacked seals whereas seals of 32 others had already been tampered with.
Speaking to journalists today Thursday, opposition leaders stressed that since the Electoral Commission take approximately two years implementing the electoral cycle, they should desist from avoidable mistakes which breed mistrust among the public.
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) election supervisor, Saleh Muwanguzi says that EC should thoroughly investigate the issue of broken seals because it kills the morale of some voters who may assume that since the ballot boxes are tampered with, their votes are not necessary.
Muwanguzi adds that contestants have laboured to rally members of the public for support and it is, therefore, the role of EC to ensure a clean electoral process without committing mistakes which cast doubts among both the electorates and the politicians alike.
“The major challenge in this is that some boxes seals were broken and open. It raises some concern that maybe something might have been wrong with those boxes and we’re yet to verify the contents of those boxes,” Muwanguzi said.
Francis Muganga, the national unity platform (NUP) flagbearer for Iganga Municipality parliamentary seat says that unscrupulous individuals can easily pull out ballot papers from the visibly open ballot boxes. Muganga further says that, there was an extra one ballot box for Nawaningyi sub-county but EC officials are yet to explain the abnormally.
“We’re happy that the elections material have arrived in time, however, we’re dissatisfied and discontented that most of the boxes that contain ballots have been opened or have not been sealed to the extent that one can easily open and remove some ballot papers. We’re worried there is a sub-county known as Nawaningyi sub-county. To our surprise there are supposed to be 30 polling stations, however, we’re witnessing 31 ballot boxes. We’re a little bit dissatisfied what brings about this extra ballot box. That is our question because the Electoral Commission is supposed to be accurate with the materials that they bring here,” Muganga said.
Meanwhile, the Iganga district returning officer, Mercy Ataho says that EC officials are jointly working with different election stakeholders to ensure that all ballot boxes are inspected and sealed before storage.
BROKEN SEALS IN LUWEERO
Similarly, in Luweero, opposition leaders also expressed concerns over the delivery of election materials with broken seals. On Wednesday at about 9:30 pm, the Electoral Commission delivered election materials for 471 polling stations for Luwero district to its offices located in Luwero town council ahead of polls on Thursday next week.
The delivery of materials was witnessed by only agents of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), National Unity Platform (NUP), and police. The materials included ballot papers, polling registers, declaration forms, the ink pad, indelible ink and pens among others. However, NUP and NRM agents were left dissatisfied after they detected some boxes containing election materials with missing seals.
For example, one ballot box for Gavu-Bukusu polling station located in Katikamu sub-county had no single seal. Other seven polling stations that include Bombo Central Church of Primary School, Kitanswa, Keera P/S, Amazing Grace Church P/S Kikyusa ward, Kakakala-Kiberenge public school, Kasiiso trading centre and Nabinaka Eden P/S were found with one or two seals missing.
Brenda Nabukenya the Luwero Woman MP candidate explained that they listed the polling stations with unsealed ballot boxes and tasked the commission to explain what action they intended to take in vain.
Nabukenya who is also NUP regional coordinator explains that they are in fear that the polling stations with missing seals could be used to steal ballot papers to rig elections. She, however, noted that she will verify whether new seals have been added and their agents will mark these during the polls to ensure there is no ballot stuffing.
Nabukenya also accused the EC of delivering the materials at night leaving many candidates to miss out on witnessing the exercise something that leaves the process questionable.
“We’re going to be very critical of that polling station, we expect the Electoral Commission to come out and explain why that box came without a seal because you could just open and anyone from cleaners, secretaries in that office can access and put in materials. Equally, each box is sealed with two seals but we have seven polling stations with one seal. Our supervisors are going to follow up on delivery when the materials are delivered at a polling station. But still, we’re tasking the Electoral Commission to explain what will happen to the boxes that did not have seals and also these other polling stations where there was one seal and two seals,” said Nabukenya.
David Kamugisha the NRM registrar for Luwero district says that when they asked the EC officials in the district why the seals were broken, Kamugisha was told that they were not tampered with but could have been broken accidentally during transit. He said that they have agreed to have the boxes sealed again before they are dispatched to their respective polling stations.
Fredrick Makaire an independent candidate for Katikamu North parliamentary race said he learnt after the exercise through a news reporter and questioned why the EC didn’t invite him or his agent to witness the delivery. Makaire adds that failure to involve the candidates to witness the delivery of election materials raises questions of transparency and credibility of the entire process.
Robert Sekajiija the chairperson of FDC for Luwero district says that he was also not invited and also questions the transparency of the Electoral Commission. Sekajiija says this clearly shows how the elections will not be free and fair since they don’t know the exact materials that were delivered.
When reached for comment, Nathan Nabaasa the Luwero district returning officer declined to comment saying he was busy.