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Tension as Uganda polls petition verdict kicks off

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Tension as Uganda polls petition verdict kicks off
The nine judges who heard the case include Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Jotham Tumwesigye, Dr. Esther Kisaakye, Mary Stella Arach-Amoko, Augustine Nshimye, Eldad Mwangusya, Rubby Aweri-Opio, Faith Mwondha and Prof. Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza

The ghosts of Uganda’s previous election petitions are lurking today as the nation awaits the nine-judge panel make a judgment 30 days after they heard both applications. Defeated independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi petitioned the Supreme Court challenging Mr Yoweri Museveni’s victory.

According to analysts, past Supreme Court rulings (2001 and 2006 involving Kizza Besigye) set a nearly impossible-to-meet and restrictive test in trying to determine that election irregularities substantially affected the election outcome.

Verdict session at the Supreme Court has kicked off and reporters say there is noticeably heightened security presence around at the Kololo based court as well as parts of Kampala. A notable incident of a man who has chained himself on Clock Tower Street light with a “Respect My Vote, Free Dr Besigye” placard has puzzled security.

The full bench of SC judges hearing the petition is led by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, while the first respondent Museveni’s team is led by Kiryowa Kiwanuka while the second respondent Electoral Commission is represented by lawyers Muhammad Mbabazi and Enos Tumusiime. The Attorney General’s team led by Deputy AG Mwesigwa Rukutana.

Amama’s lead lawyer Mr Mbabazi during the submissions explained that the Electoral Commission did not rely on any of the above to announce Mr Museveni the winner, before saying that the February 18 results are a nullity.

“Section 56 of the Presidential Elections Act was not complied with. This has been discharged by the petitioner (Mr Mbabazi).” submitted Mbabazi’s lawyer, Adding: “there were no Dr forms, no tally sheets and return forms from the districts upon which the 2nd respondent (EC) based upon to declare the 1st respondent (President Museveni) a winner.”  The petitioners argued that it was unconstitutional for EC boss Eng. Kigunddu to declare the final results on February 20 and yet results from 1,787 polling stations were not yet in.

Among the other top issues that Mr Mbabazi lawyers presented to court on was about the delay in delivery of voting materials, especially to Kampala and Wakiso districts, which are in close proximity to the EC head office. In some areas in Kampala and Wakiso, voting started at 2:30pm and 4pm yet the official opening time was 7am.

Article 104 (5) of the Constitution, gives the Supreme Court three options while deciding a presidential election petition. The first option that the court can go with is to dismiss Mr Mbabazi’s petition and this will mean that President Museveni was validly elected president.

The second option is to declare any of the eight former presidential candidates as having been validly elected.

The last option that the Supreme Court justices have is to annul the election of President Museveni and order for fresh elections that should be conducted within 20 days from today.