Ugandan opposition parties are faced with a familiar conundrum—fairly sure that the election they just lost was rigged, but unsure how to prove it. There is evidence that President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), made significant gains in many parts of the country, especially urban areas. It is also clear that intimidation and repression were widespread, including the repeated detention of Besigye in the weeks of and after polling day. But neither domestic courts nor international election monitors are likely to declare an election unfree or unfair on the basis of this kind of background manipulation, although both the European Union and U.S. State Department found the election process to be marked by a lack of transparency and worrying irregularities. At the end of the day, it is only hard evidence of ballot box stuffing or faulty vote tallying that is likely to sway them. So, do the results, published by the Electoral Commission (EC) in almost complete form towards the end of February, point to a rigged election? And if so, how was it done?
When evaluating election results it is important to keep in mind two questions: Is there clear evidence of rigging that systematically benefitted one side over another? Was this rigging sufficient to change the result of the election? In many elections, we see one of these questions answered affirmatively but not the other. In the Ugandan context, Museveni officially received 60.62 percent of the vote, with Besigye on 35.61 percent—a gap of almost 2.5 million votes. So, with these two questions in mind, what do the results tell us?
As expected, urban areas including Kampala voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, with Besigye winning a presidential majority in 14 constituencies, up from just 4 in 2011. These results fit with reports by journalists and commentators during the campaign. But in other ways, the election results appear far-fetched. In national elections, it is practically impossible that 100 percent of registered voters at a particular polling station would turn out to vote. Yet the results for this election show a high number of such cases clustered in particular areas.
In Kiruhura District—in the heartland of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM)—67 polling stations logged highly improbable turnouts of 100 percent. Forty-three of those stations made the even more dubious claim of 100 percent of votes in favor of the incumbent. In the same district, a further 59 stations recorded turnout of between 98 and 99.99 percent of the registered voters. The total turnout in Kiruhura District was 86.87 percent, contributing more than 120,000 votes for the president or 91.35 percent of the district’s total valid ballots. In Nakaseke District, two sub-counties had 14 stations between them with 100 percent turnout and 100 percent of the votes in favor of the incumbent out of a total of 29 polling stations. Taken in total, all the polling stations across the two sub-counties recorded a 97 percent turnout, with over 97 percent of the valid votes going to Museveni. This pattern was repeated across multiple other districts.
Full Article: How to Win an Election in Uganda.