Did Intimidation Affect Voter Turn Out in Bobi Wine’s Strongholds?

In his amended petition to the Supreme Court challenging the results of the 2021 presidential elections, Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert of the National Unity Platform alleges that Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, of the National Resistance Movement, engaged in acts that created insecurity and seriously compromised freedom, fairness and voter turnout in the elections particularly in his stronghold districts/cities of Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Mpigi, Gulu, Masaka which denied him the opportunity to win the election.

In the petition which seeks to invalidate the declaration of Museveni as president-elect, Kyagulanyi says that the NRM government’s actions greatly intimidated, terrified and horrified his electorate thereby affecting the percentage of voter turnout. On the other hand, the petition adds that in Museveni’s stronghold districts of Kiruhura, Isingiro, Bunyangabu, Kazo, Kamwenge, Kyankwanzi, which had no serious issues of intimidation and violence against voters, the percentage voter turnout was higher hence giving Museveni an edge. 

A look at the results as posted on the Electoral Commission website shows that on average, more people turned out to vote in districts that Museveni won especially in the Ankole sub-region, Karamoja sub-region and generally in what is commonly known as the cattle corridor than other areas. 

On average the voter turnout in districts that Museveni won stands at 63.63 per cent while in districts that Kyagulanyi won, the voter turnout on average stands at 57.6 per cent. Similarly, in where Museveni won, he had an average of 71.2 per cent of total votes cast while Kyagulanyi had an average of 62.3 per cent.

In nine districts, five of whom are in Western Uganda and four in Karamoja sub-region, Museveni won by over 90 per cent. Here, the voter turnout is also one of the highest across the country with Kiruhura having the highest turnout at 93.7. 

In 23 districts, Museveni got more than 80 per cent of all the valid votes cast. Similarly, these districts too had a higher voter turnout with the highest being Mbarara at 80 per cent voter turnout. On the other hand, in the districts that voted for Kyagulanyi, there was no one where he got over 77 per cent of the total score. His highest score was Masaka City where he scored 77 per cent of the valid votes.

There are other eight districts in which he scored between 70-77 per cent of the valid vote. In these districts where he scored above 70, the average voter turnout is 56.3 per cent, with Butambala being the highest at 67 and Kampala the lowest at 43 per cent. 

The other issue at play is the number of polling stations vis-a-vis the number of voters in a district. In districts that Museveni won, on average the number of voters per polling station stands at 388. On the other hand, in districts that Kyagulanyi won, the number of voters per polling station on average stands at 530. This, in essence, means that in districts where polling stations have fewer voters, chances are very high that the majority of the voters will be able to vote in the time frame of between 7 am when polling stations open and 4 pm when they close.

The reverse is also true for polling stations where the number of voters is bigger. Most of the districts that voted for Kyagulanyi have more voters than those that voted for Museveni on average. For example, Kampala and Wakiso that overwhelmingly voted for Kyagulanyi each have more than 1million voters. The two districts combined have more voters than the entire Karamoja Sub-region.

Speaking to Uganda Radio Network, Paul Bukenya, the spokesperson of the Electoral Commission said their decision to create polling stations is determined by law.  “I don’t want to get into the details of what determines the creation of polling stations, but let me forward to you the guideline that we followed,” Bukenya said.

According to the guidelines that were followed in creating and reorganizing polling stations, every parish/Ward and Electoral Area must have at least one Polling Station. “Where no Polling Station exists in a newly created Parish/Ward, at least one Polling Station must be recommended with due regard to the convenience of its location. Each Polling Station should have voters as close to the optimum number of 900 voters as possible,” the guidelines reads in part.

Now what is left to be seen is whether Kyagulanyi will be able to prove to the court whether there was any mischief in the way the Electoral Commission allocated polling station or indeed its true as he alleges that the irregularities that he talks about in his petition were committed in areas that overwhelmingly voted for Museveni and helped him win.