Casting a ballot on Election Day strikes many of us as a kind of civic obligation; neglecting to do so is not so serious as neglecting to hustle to get bread on the table if you are the breadwinner.
After a month long of campaigning, people of Kibaale, Kakumiro, Kagadi, Rubanda and Omoro will go to polls on August 29 to elect their leaders for the next five years. This is their right, and not anything offered by any politician on a platter. After the campaigns assorted with promises - practical as well as impractical, unimaginable lies, veiled intimidations and fear psychosis, it will be the voters’ turn to cast the die. When the voters make their decision on polling day, it will be alike a vow that would decisively affect their lives for the next few years, if not a lifetime seal. This is how serious an election is. Albeit the reality, many people don’t appreciate that an election begins a social contract between the electorate and its elected leaders. Many times, politicians take advantage of the electorate’s little understanding of the importance of elections to delude them in various ways.
Reports from the new districts indicate that the campaigns are still relatively calm. However, the politicians are already at it, in their coarse characteristic ways. Acts of bribery and intimidation are already rearing their ugly heads. In Rubanda specifically, one of the district woman MP candidates was recently spotted handing out cash to village associations and in turn asking for their support, come Election Day.
No politician or agent has the right to influence the voter by way of bribery, deception, intimidation or for that matter threats. In the same way, the responsibility to protect the voter from these deceptions and intimidations lies on the law enforcing authorities - the police and the election management body.
It is the responsibility and in the interest of all political parties, law enforcement authorities, election observers and other key stakeholders to prevent recurrence of such malpractices and create a conducive atmosphere for a free and fair election.
If the people take the wrong decision due to the deceptive propaganda by the politicians or if their decisions are distorted by way of rigging, intimidation, threats or manipulation by candidates, then we will end up suffering the brunt of bad elections. Any electoral malpractice is bad enough to warrant bloodshed or cancellation of an election. If an election goes bad, possibilities of violence are high; if not, then the voters will have to wait for another five years to rectify the wrong or at the earliest, they will have to pay heavily to run a fresh election. Either way, a bad election causes immense and sometimes irreversible loss – financial or otherwise.
Elections are not a spectator sport, they are an avenue to change communities for the better. For the voters, it lies squarely upon you to be wise enough to choose a comparatively cleaner, focused candidate who has a positive agenda that resonates with your respective community.
Considering that our elections today tend to be tainted with lies, invectives, insults, threats and all other sorts of vices under the sun, it is important for the voters to carefully assess what they have been told by the politicians with a view of making prudent decisions.
Be wary of politicians who use foreboding language or those who suggest they have the exclusive power of bringing about change single-handedly. Be cautious of those candidates who will profess bringing seismic forces to redraw the contours of their communities overnight.
Whereas the practice of holding elections has become almost universal and routine, let’s strive to make elections work for us. Collectively, we must act in ways that will rebuild confidence in elections, ensuring their credibility and believability.
Elections are too important to neglect!