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Soroti East By- Election: EC Clears Voting in Contested Wards

On July 1, four voters petitioned the Electoral Commission Chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama over the alleged illegal and unconstitutional act and omission tainting the planned by- election.
16 Jul 2022 14:08
Justice Byabakama in Soroti.
The Electoral Commission has cleared voting in Opiyai and Aloet wards in the Soroti East by-election scheduled for July 28, 2022.  The two parishes have been the subject of contention by some voters who wanted to block the entire exercise. 

On July 1, four voters petitioned the Electoral Commission Chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama over the alleged illegal and unconstitutional act and omission tainting the planned by- election. 

The voters Michael Etadu Enyangu, Enoch Opio, and two others whose names have not been revealed sought to block voters from Aloet and Opiyai wards from participating in the election on grounds that the constitution doesn’t allow a person to vote twice for the same position in the constituency. 

Through their lawyers Kaganzi & Co. Advocates, the petitioners observed that the involvement of the voters from the contested areas would require nullification of the Soroti West Division polls, whose votes were included and declared in the election of the current MP, Jonathan Ebwalu. 

“Consequently, owing to the fact that the voters of Opiyai and Aloet parishes were illegally and wrongfully paced and counted for the January 15, 2021- declared results of the elections of the directly elected MP for the Soroti West Constituency and now these votes must be deleted, and since the number of voters/votes to be deleted significantly affects the declared results and has a bearing on the winner of that election; that election should be canceled and a by-election ordered and held for the directed elected MP of Soroti West Division”, the petition reads in part.

But after meeting the aggrieved parties on Tuesday, the commission in its report released on Friday said that there was no merit in the petition. “In view of the foregoing, the Commission under CM.MIN 134/2022 found no merit in your complaint, and the by-election for the Soroti East Constituency will continue as scheduled”, the letter signed by the Commission’s Chairperson, Justice Byabakama reads.

The commission, according to the letter issued through the office of the Chairperson of EC Justice Byabakama Mugenyi Simon indicates that, the commission under CM.MIN 134/2022 found that there was no merit in the complaint filed by four concerned voters who had asked the commission not to allow the two wards to vote.

According to Justice Byabakama, there has been an update of the voter’s register in all the seven parishes where voters were transferred in accordance with section 19 of the Electoral Commission Act, Cap 140. He added that neither the Court judgment nor the Electoral Commission laws prohibit the voters registered in Opiyai and Aloet from voting in the Constituency. “…and their participation does not offend the provisions of Section 31 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 or any of the enabling electoral laws”, the letter reads in part.

Justice Byabakama argued that the Commission is neither possessed with the powers to cancel the electoral outcome in Soroti West Constituency nor mandated to remove and add/or deduct votes in the two wards from the declared results of January 14, 2021, general elections following the Court of Appeal decision.

The Forum for Democratic Change- Secretary General, Nathan Nandalla Mafabi had raised in vain, similar issues in his petition to the commission dated June 10, 2022. The Court of Appeal based its May ruling on the removal of Aloet and Opiyai wards from Soroti East Division which was placed in Soroti West. 

Herbert Edmund Ariko, the then-candidate in the Soroti East race ran to court arguing that the removal of the two wards caused him the seat since they were his stronghold.