Countrywide- There was general low voter turnout across many parts of the country for election of village women councils.
Women were voting chairpersons, vice chairpersons, general secretaries, publicity secretaries and secretaries for finance.
Spot checks by Daily Monitor at many polling stations established that most women voters stayed away or shunned the exercise.
The Electoral Commission had earlier expressed concern that many women who had initially shown interest in the election were stepping down without giving reasons.
However, despite the low voter up, NRM candidates won in majority polling stations across the country while others won unopposed.
For instance, in Kampala, most of the voters said they couldn’t vote because the exercise delayed yet it was a working day.
“The time for voting is unfavourable because most of the people have to be at work. It should at least be on a weekend,” said Juliet Naluwooza, one of the voters.
Other voters complained that the method of lining up behind candidates was cumbersome and they decided to stay away from the whole exercise.
The other challenges, voters said, included the verification process, where majority of the women who weren’t on the female register were not allowed to vote yet they were on the Electoral Commission’s general national voters’ register.
Janson Wandera, a polling officer at Central Zone in Wabigalo Parish in Namuwongo, Makindye Division, confirmed that only voters in the women register were allowed to vote.
At Ham Mukasa Polling Station in Namirembe Parish, Rubaga Division, only a handful of voters showed up. Out of 500 voters in the register, only 30 turned up.
“Elections should be done during weekends when people are not going for work. This has also affected the exercise because they had to work and in some areas voting materials delayed, which forced voters to go away before voting ,” said Aisha Nkizi, a candidate who was elected unopposed.
She added that secret ballot voting would have been better because voters would be free to vote for people of their choice without being identified.
However, the Namirembe Parish election officer, Mr Derrick Katura, said the election exercise was ‘free and fair’ since people were lining behind their candidates.
“We did not have riots during the exercise as it has been in the previous elections. In Namirembe Parish, 11 out of 16 candidates were unopposed because their rivals did not turn up,” Mr Katura said.
Some voters at Green Hill Zone One, Kitooro Zone and Munyonyo in Makindye Division, criticised the method of lining up behind candidates, saying it creates divisions among the electorate and discourages people from voting freely.
Ms Florence Nakitende, who lost to Ms Nassanga Tabalamula in Green Hill Zone by 59 votes out of 175 votes, said she felt like crying after seeing some of her friends lining up behind her rival.
“This method is bad, even if I have lost I can’t believe even my friends did not vote for me,” Ms Nakitende said.
In Iganga District, the situation wasn’t any better as many voters stayed away.
At Kasokoso Central One Ward, Central Division in Iganga Municipality, out of 413 registered voters, only 50 turned up. The race comprised Ms Zakia Nabirye (FDC) and Khadija Mutesi (NRM). Ms Nabirye won.
The NRM candidate and her agents did not show up, leaving the FDC candidate to win unchallenged. She was declared winner by the presiding officer, Shafiq Mpyangu.
For the post of vice chairperson, the NRM candidate also did not show up and Zubeda Mutesi (FDC) was declared winner with 17 votes, while Shamim Tushemereire (FDC) was declared Secretary for Finance with 17 votes.
Nuru Kasira and Jessica Namuwaya, both NRM, were elected unopposed as general secretary and secretary for publicity respectively.
In Kamuli District, NRM party candidates won most of the posts, something many attributed to the impact of Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga being their inspiration.
The FDC district electoral commission returning officer, Mr Gonza Bukenya, said the Opposition mobilised poorly because they were focusing on getting more LC1 chairpersons whose election is slated for July 10.
“Imagine even our people were in Bugiri canvassing votes for the FDC candidate and we were reluctant in women seats. This contributed to poor turnout,” Mr Gonza said.
By time of filing this report provisional results from 710 out of 774 villages indicated that NRM had won majority seats in 616, the Opposition FDC winning in 27 while Independents took 67.
Kamuli District EC registrar Gracious Araija said some of the women arrived at polling stations after the lining up had started.
He said they mistook the voting to last until at 4pm.
In Lira, the district registrar, Mr Charles Egimu, said many women who had shown interest in the election stepped down even where there were no competitors.
“I think women are not courageous enough to participate even in their own election because we are receiving reports that in some villages there are some women who are stepping down even on election day today because of lack of interest. But the election is going on well and we have not heard any serious issue so far,” Mr Egimu said.
He explained that the register and the results declaration forms were the only requirements for the election in all the villages.
In Mbale District, the polling stations visited by this newspaper such as Nahupa Cell, Fairway Cell, Maluku Cell, North Road Cell and Namakwekwe, had a similar low voter turnout.
Ms Moreen Nyakeecho, the presiding officer of Nahupa Cell in Wanale Division, attributed the low turnout to voters’ negative attitude towards the relevance of women councils.
“We haven’t registered any voter despite pleading for them to come and vote,” she said.
Ms Sylvia Woleyo, another presiding officer at Fairway Cell in Wanale Division blamed the poor turnout to lack of sensitisation.
“Government should have done more sensitisation on the grassroots to make the people understand the relevance of these positions,” she said.
However, Mr Geoffrey Magomu, one of the residents, said the process of lining up behind candidates scared away many voters.
“This concept of lining up behind candidates’ will not work and since it has started failing at this level, it will be worse in election of village chairpersons,” he said.
In Masaka District, Ms Freda Kase Mubanda, the former Masaka District Woman MP, won unopposed as the publicity secretary for Kikalaala Village in Kyamuyimbwa Sub-county.
The voter turnout was similarly low, leaving candidates stranded as some made frantic phone calls to their supporters to come and vote.
Ms Juliet Namubiru, a candidate in the Mutuba Musisi Gardens Village, was shocked by failure of voters to turnout yet they persuaded her to contest.
“I don’t know what is going on. I have called some people but they told me they will come later after work,” she said.
She attributed the poor turnout to the voting method of lining up by candidates.
In Nyendo suburb, Masaka Town, candidates in Nsereko Zone in Nyendo-Ssenyange Division were seen doing manicure at the polling station as they waited for voters.
At Kijabwemi, where voters fairly turned up, NRM’s Justine Nakabugo, who contested for chairperson seat, lost to her opponent, Berna Nabiwembe (DP).
In Ibanda, the district registrar, Mr Tolbert Musinguzi, said voting in 606 villages in 15 sub-counties including three divisions in Ibanda Municipality, 3,030 women were elected on various village councils positions. He said voting was peaceful.
Mr Musinguzi said 75 per cent of candidates won unopposed.
“It has been a quiet and interesting exercise. Those who turned up joined others in the line to vote,” Mr Musinguzi said.
In Mbarara District, the elections from 776 six polling stations concluded successfully but with low turnout.
The district returning officer, Mr Dan Ruhemba Kamusiime, said five women, who have been elected in each village council, will register at every parish level to elect a committee of five members in every parish who will comprise the chairperson, vice chairperson, treasurer, general secretary and publicity secretary.
Mr Kamusiime advised the elected women leaders to pick nomination forms from their respective parish supervisors to get prepared for nominations scheduled for July 13 at parish headquarters.
Majority in Kabale and Rukiga districts were unopposed.
Compiled by Amos Ngwomoya, Derrick Wandera, Shabibah Nakirigya, Nobert Atukunda, Patrick Ebong, Micheal Woniala, Joseph Omollo, Yazid Yolisigira, Sam Caleb Opio, Moses Muwulya, Gertrude Mutyaba, Ivan Kimbowa, Elly Karenzi, Robert Muhereza, and Frederick Anyine