Election observers are baffled by 100 per cent voter turnout at 409 polling stations in the recently concluded January 14 presidential elections.
In total, President Yoweri Museveni polled 161,864 votes at these polling stations representing 95.8 per cent of votes cast with the rest of 10 presidential candidates sharing 4 per cent of the votes. Except at three, Museveni, who was declared the winner of the polls by the Electoral Commission, won at all theses polling stations. National Unity Platform’s Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine won at one of these polling stations; Namaitsu primary school in Budada district where he polled 311 votes, representing 73% of cast votes.
These polling stations are spread across 29 districts. Isingiro district had the highest number of polling stations, 145, recording 100 per cent voter turnout. It is followed by Kiruhura with 68 polling stations and Kazo with 43 polling stations in having 100 per cent voter turnout. These three districts have more than half of polling stations that had 100 per cent voter turnout.
That not a single voter died, was sick, was away from home or decided not to votes at these polling stations, experts say raises questions that beg to be probed. Such voter turnout, election observers argue, isn’t normal.
Before the polls, independent election observer, Crispy Kaheru says the Electoral Commission informed them that they would only flag polling stations that returned more than 100 per cent turnout. Indeed, Daily Monitor reported that a polling station in Ssembabule returned more than 100 per cent voters turnout.
The Electoral Commission nullified results of 83 polling stations for a number of reasons, including where “total votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters for the polling stations.” But it did not explain how many polling stations returned more votes cast than registered voters.
Kaheru argues that any polling station that returns more than 90 per cent voter turnout should be flagged and questioned. Given that a voters register is compiled a year before the election, he argues that it's surprising that a polling station can register 100 per cent voter turnout a year later.
"100% cent voter turnout should be one of the things we should flag. Technically speaking, the system from what I recall and what we were told by the Electoral Commission is that the systems flag polling stations that post results that are over 100%…My opinion is any polling station that goes beyond 90% should be flagged. Technically speaking, if you have registered voters a year before elections, it is very surprising that you can 100% voter turnup at a polling station especially given the realities of social life that people die, people travel, people may not necessarily show up at polling stations, people fall sick," said Kaheru.
This view is shared by Charity Ahimbisibwe of Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).
"It is not normal in countries across the world to find 100% voter turnout. Usually, people may not show up at polling stations because they were either sick, they did not show up for the voter update process, maybe did not want to participate in the process. That number has gone up from 4.9 which was last year. So there are certain results as to why people may not all show up to vote and we have never seen that happening in almost all places where we have gone to observe elections. It is a unique case to Uganda that we could register 409 polling stations with 100% turnout and probably we need to study it more as people who work in the spectrum of electoral democracy," said Ahimbisibwe.
The question that ought to be asked to the Electoral Commission, Ahimbisibwe says is, for instance for a copy of voters register of people who voted at that polling station.
“You can go to these places; you can go to Kazo; you can go to Kiruhura, meet people themselves and ask if they showed up and voted.”
Isingiro district returning officer David Mukundane advised this reporter to seek comment from EC spokesperson Paul Bukenya. But Bukenya has not responded to several questions sent to him over the past two weeks. Benjamin Muhanguzi who runs a civil society organization in Isingiro says some people actually never voted.
“It’s the army that voted in many parts of the district. So, the fact is Isingiro people did not speak with their voice on voting day,” he said.
Previously, Annie Nkutu, an election observer with Uganda Women Situation Room who went to Isingiro, said she cannot talk about the figures. “Most of the observations we made were in the early hours of the morning when voting was just beginning, we did not go back in the evening," she said. "It’s hard for me to make a fair comment on figures.”
Nicholas Atuhairwe, who was a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) flag bearer in Isingiro North says, “rigging was too much and could not be hidden.”
At some polling stations, Atuhairwe claims the “number of votes were more than registered voters, but since there were no agents of other candidates, I think they sat and ensured that things balance.”