Museveni wrote in a lengthy article in the aftermath of the ruling party’s recent defeat in Luwero that he has learnt that corrupt electoral officials connive with the opposition to rig elections by stuffing ballot boxes with pre-ticked ballot papers or voting several times.
“The riggers would have agreed with the corrupt election officials to tick the names of the absentee voters or those who died or shifted or even the ones still in the village so that when they come to vote, the peasants can be intimidated and back off,”
He added: “It is for this reason that I have been insisting on computerized voting for almost 20 years – especially the use of electronically read thumb-print. It is a pity that Africans need to be supervised by machines on account of lack of integrity, lack of loyalty and lack of vigilance.”
Many people have however dismissed the president’s suggestions and argued that he is not committed to free and fair elections as shown by the government’s unwillingness to have an independent electoral commission.
One observer identified as Thomas Bbosa posted on an email list serve I-Network that: “I don’t think president Museveni is the person to make these reforms, he does not have what it takes. He has failed on many fronts, he simply has to leave and give someone else more capable to move Uganda forward.”
Bbosa added: “Digital elections is one of the many noises that we have heard for the past 27 years. You can’t buy off voters, like what we have seen happen recently, where Members of Parliament were given money to give poor people, so they support sole candidature, you can’t do this sort of thing and say you have the will to see fair elections…you simply cannot!.”
Museveni made the allegations on vote rigging in a lengthy article about the history of vote rigging since 1961.
A computerized voting system is however not a panacea to rigging. The 2007 Kenyan elections may provide a sober reminder to those who support a computerized voters register when it was allegedly manipulated by agents of the state. This resulted into manual recounting of votes that lasted several days and ended bizarrely with violence that claimed the lives of over 1000 people through ethnic c leansing.
Museveni cited rumours that were allegedly circulated by the opposition in the recent Luwero Woman MP by-election urging voters not to go to polling stations until they are picked up by vehicles provided courtesy of the ruling party.
Museveni said: “In the recent case of Luwero, a rumour was passed around by somebody, telling voters not to walk to the Polling stations. That the NRM will send money or vehicles for transport. Hence, many voters stayed at home and the corrupt election officials, along with the criminal opposition, used the absentee names for ticking in favour of the anti-NRM candidate. This is partly due to the weakness within the NRM. Why not detect those schemes and counter-act them using the radios?”
Museveni particularly accused the opposition for propagating the rigging schemes in many previous by-elections.
“Especially elements from the opposition, totally lacking in ideology or mission other than thirst for power and money, engage in rigging where the NRM vigilance goes down. I have got information to this effect – in the case of the bye-elections of Bushenyi, Entebbe, Kasese and, just the other day, in Luwero. In Kampala it has been habitual.”
“On the eve of the 2011 General elections, one intelligence contact brought me election officials in the Kampala area who told me how the rigging was done.”
Museveni also accused Electoral Commission officials for conniving with opposition elements to stuff pre-ticked ballots.
“With the collusion of election officials, somebody comes with pre-ticked ballots under long sleeves and with a sign. When the elections official gives him the official vote to cast, he goes to the basin where we tick the votes, removes the votes under the sleeve and casts all of them as if they are one.
Efforts by The Sunrise to get a comment from the EC deputy spokesperson Paul Bukenya failed as his line was constantly jammed.