Election In The Time Of COVID-19: How Ready Is Your Candidate For A Scientific Election?

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If you thought you would gather people, address your rally and hold drink ups with your electorates as it was before, you might get thrown to jail as things have changed for the forthcoming general election. You’d rather save and start talking to radios, tv stations, and other media entities or set up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with your voters.

The recent coronavirus spread that nobody thought would engulf the entire world and infect over 5m people has not spared any sector. After infecting and killing several hundreds of thousands, COVID-19 is now coming for our democracy—the electoral process.

As Uganda’s election nears (only about 6 months) till citizens go to polls, many politicians are worried about how they would reach their electorates during this turbulent time when social distancing is enforced in pretty much every aspect of our life.

The National electoral body, the Electoral Commission (EC) has about three weeks ago unveiled its electoral process roadmap—some sort of a standard operating procedure (SOP) that every candidate considering running for a political position must adhere to.

Politicians find it hard to cope with the new EC regulation 

However, the roadmap mainly details how “scientific” the entire system from campaigning to the actual casting of votes would be. The new EC’s guidelines emphasize the use of media for campaigns and discourage gatherings of any kind. But with the limited media penetration in Uganda, how would candidates from the underserved communities survive? 

Although the government mainly targets radio stations and televisions as avenues of campaigns for the upcoming elections, the costs associated with such ventures, unless subsidized by the state are certainly unbearable by most candidates and only compromises with their right to exercise their leadership talents. 

It now makes sense that some politicians including Dr Ruth Aceng herself, the country’s health minister could not stand the new demands of the EC, violated the new principle of “scientific campaign” and went ahead to gather her electorates in Lira, an act that sparked a national outcry.

“I am going to get a smartphone soon to stay in the loop with my electorates as I watch things unfold,” a potential LC III candidate from Lamwo district who still doubts the effectiveness of media and internet in spreading information narrates in anonymity.

Besides media companies, other groups of young people of the dotcom calibre see this as an opportunity. A couple of ‘idle’ young people are now reaching out to potential candidates with proposals to plan and run a successful campaign plan for them.

A “scientific” electoral system is long overdue

While Uganda is making headway in technology adoption, the recent COVID-19 situation exposed numerous loopholes, which demands that the country doubles or even triples its pace as far as technology development and adoption is concerned.

Elsewhere in the world, although some countries have announced their plans to postpone elections, several others are exploring the usage of e-voting systems and digital campaigns in a bid to abide by the guidelines supplied by the WHO and health ministries. Not only does such technology prevent “unnecessary” gathering, but more advanced techniques such as the distributed ledger technology (DTL) powered by blockchain is praised for its transparency, safety, and anonymity as well as urgency and cost-effectiveness. South Korea, US, Japan, Russia, Italy and a bunch of other countries have all tried such online voting technologies before and are exploring it further.

The one message everyone should hear is: technology is inevitable. Young or old, we just have to appreciate and embrace it.

Is your candidate ‘science-friendly’? What are your thoughts on the new EC scientific voting system? Let’s know in the comment below.

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