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U.S. Promotes Transparent Ugandan Elections


The Forum for Democratic Change party president, Dr. Kizza Besigye. (file)

The United States is working with the Ugandan government to provide new technology that makes voting more accessible and transparent.

To promote a free, fair and peaceful presidential election in Uganda, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) to launch a new platform which allows voters to verify their registration status and polling station assignment online.

The system will make the voter registry, which consists of approximately 15 million names, more accessible and transparent, and will raise voter confidence before the February 2011 general elections.

Previously, individual voters, political parties, and civil society organizations had to purchase copies of the voter registry from the Electoral Commission. Voters can now validate their registration status and polling station assignment through the Electoral Commission’s website. In turn, political parties and civil society organizations can now access and print voter registration lists for each of Uganda’s 24,000 polling stations.

During an August 25 ceremony with the Electoral Commission that was attended by several opposition party and civil society representatives, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Jerry P. Lanier noted,

“In addition to rendering the voter registry more transparent and accessible, posting this document online should boost voter confidence in Uganda’s electoral processes, improve the effectiveness of the voter registration display process that is now underway, reduce confusion over polling assignments and registration status on election day, and reinforce the foundations necessary for free and fair elections.”

The online voter registry is a result of a six hundred thousand dollar grant from USAID to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES); one of many ways in which the United States Government continues to support and invest in the democratic governance of Uganda.

Also in development is an SMS text messaging system that will enable voters to verify their registration status and polling station assignment via cell phone. For those without online capabilities, this will be particularly beneficial.

While these advancements will reinforce the credibility of Ugandan elections, Ambassador Lanier encouraged other branches of the Ugandan government to take similar steps to safeguard freedom of expression, assembly, and the media in advance of the February 2011 elections.

The ruling National Resistance Movement party has endorsed President Yoweri Museveni as its presidential candidate for 2011. Museveni’s primary opponent will likely be Forum for Democratic Change party president Dr. Kizza Besigye, who has also been endorsed by the opposition Inter-Party Cooperation coalition.

The United States will continue to work with the Ugandan government, opposition parties, and civil society to promote free, fair, and peaceful elections.

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