Uganda: Long-Term Observation of 1996 Presidential and Legislative Elections, May - July 1996

Publication Date: 
31 Aug 1996

Publication Type:



From April 28 through June 30, 1996, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) conducted a long-term observation of the campaign and election processes in Uganda. During the period of this project, Ugandan citizens elected a president, over 200 territorial constituency representatives, and selected representatives of its army, disabled, youth, workers and female populations. A core group of three IFES observers was expanded to five for the presidential and territorial constituency elections.

The scope of work for the IFES election observation project in Uganda consisted of an examination, assessment and recommendations on the following factors:

         administrative, procedural, and logistical strengths and weaknesses of the electoral process;

         adherence of Ugandan election officials to internationally recognized standards of democratic elections and to the requirements of Ugandan election law and regulations;

         any evidence of malfeasance or fraud on the part of election officials, pollworkers, ruling political interest officials, or others in the electoral period;

         constraints on the ability of individual voters, male and female, to cast their vote without undue hardship or intimidation, in secrecy, in an informed manner, and to have that vote counted and reported accurately;

         apparent effectiveness of the voter education programs;

         recommendations for improvement to the electoral process in future elections; and

         an evaluation of the process as it occurs within the evolving political transition in Uganda.

In order to develop a regional understanding of the political developments, IFES observers were posted to Mbarara, Mbale, and Kampala districts. This coverage was expanded as the parliamentary election dates approached to include Lira and Kabale districts. To better understand the campaign and election processes, the IFES team gathered periodically in Kampala to review activities, prepare observation reports, and establish objectives for the next several weeks.

During the project, IFES produced four observation reports detailing the team's activities, issues regarding the election process and the campaign, and interim reports on the election days throughout the two months.

The purpose of the IFES long-term observer mission in Uganda at once bears similarity to and diverges from the international standards of election observation. With the placement of a number of observers in country during the campaign, registration and training periods, the IFES team was able to develop relationships with Ugandan election officials, candidates, agents and voters in particular areas, and to apply the information that it gained from these relationships to its observations on the election days. The IFES team was also able to expand its observations beyond the election days to comment on the pre-election period, campaign activities, investigations and election-related complaints. Its terms of reference included an evaluation of the transition process to date in Uganda, and a brief examination of the extent to which the reforms instituted by the National Resistance Movement in 1986 have been implemented ten years into the process.

Within the parameters of the constitution, the election process, which includes the nomination and campaign period, was conducted in a manner which improves upon the last process. This improvement in the election administration area gives observers the opportunity to comment on more political issues, such as the register for the women's elections, the role of the army, and the strategies employed by members of the NRM.

The IFES team shared information with members of local observer groups as well as other international observer delegations throughout the two-month period. Whenever possible, IFES team members traveled with Ugandan local monitors to observe campaign meetings, training sessions and election day activities. Two weeks into the IFES project, a secretariat for the support of international observers (Joint Secretariat for the Support of International Observer Groups, or JSSIOG) was established in Kampala. The IFES team provided polling station checklists and participated in the regional debriefing sponsored by the JSSIOG. Following the elections for the territorial constituencies, IFES participated in the drafting of a statement summarizing the opinions of the international observers. The IFES observer team departed Uganda on July 2, 1996.

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