The widespread coronavirus pandemic has forced several institutions and industries into a “new normal” and the Electoral Commission seemed to follow suit with the suggestion to have scientific elections. This does not seem to be going down Ugandans throats well.
The usefulness of conducting surveys can not be emphasized more as they have a tendency of reflecting the actual opinions or persuasions of the general public and any state or body that upholds the principles of good governance should neither turn a deaf ear nor a blind eye to the findings of these social, economic and political pieces of research.
On March 21, 2020, Uganda registered its first COVID-19 case, a 36-year-old Ugandan, resident of Kakungulu Zone, Kibuli in Kampala, who returned that Saturday morning (2.00 am) aboard Ethiopian Airlines from Dubai. As of yesterday, Uganda’s cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 stood at 1,135. The outbreak of this unforgettable pandemic prompted the government of Uganda to issue out a number of regulations and directives as a strategy to counter the spread of the virus ranging from but not limited to curfew restrictions to the closure of schools, churches and some businesses that were considered as “non-essential”.
All this had a number of impacts on the lives of several Ugandans who let their opinions get known in a survey conducted by White Communications. This survey was conducted using Survey Monkey and shared on various social media platforms hence favoring 1353 young educated respondents around Kampala, Wakiso, and Mukono.
Before I can delve into the Public opinion about scientific elections, it is only important that I bring to your attention the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to have a positive impact towards Media Consumption in Uganda. The survey revealed that 78% of the respondents were exposed to news at least once everyday with majority of the respondents (68%) using Television as compared to radio which takes up 47% although it is important to note that this would have been different for rural areas where Radio is the most used.
It’s only right to state that whereas media consumption according to the survey seemed to be on a rise, efforts must be diverted towards increasing media literacy so as to aid people to not only access but also analyze and evaluate the information available on various media as a way of ensuring its authenticity. This brings me to the findings of the Public’s opinion on Electoral Politics where 64% of the respondents expressed their disapproval for the forthcoming scientific elections with only 16% approving the same.
This comes after an announcement by Uganda’s Electoral Commission under the stewardship of Hon. Justice Simon Byabakama on 16th June 2020 that public rallies had been banned and substituted with Scientific Elections where Political Contestants would be expected to conduct their campaigns using various media.
It is my contention that these statistics come at such an important time when various Civil Society Organisations like Chapter Four Uganda are arguing that an electoral process whose activities are not all-inclusive ceases to be free and fair as various politicians may not afford to pay for most Media Station’s airtime or face media bans, especially for opposition candidates. This is what most probably will explain why 52% of the respondents recommended that elections should be postponed with 43 suggesting that they should be held as per the Electoral Commission’s schedule.
This survey further discloses the Public’s Opinion on the economic impact of COVID-19 on respondents as 19% had to lose their jobs, 31% had their work hours reduced, and 26% had their pay reduced. This suggests nothing but a state of concern as COVID-19 has left many wondering where their next meal will come from.
In fact, it is for this reason that Center For Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), a Civil Society Organisation has dragged the Attorney General to Court in Civil Appeal No. 91 of 2020 for its failure to construct food reserves as a measure to ensure food security given the fact that the state had slapped harsh restrictions onto the public like those on transport and closure of most businesses which hindered easy access to food. All these hardships with time justified why perhaps 78% of the respondents feared COVID-19 less in July than they did in March.
The effects of COVID-19 or the pandemic itself perhaps might stay for quiet a long time and it is only right that we as a nation figure out ways to live along with it.
Whitehead Communications is a research firm that applies public relations theory and global best practices to build trust between organizations and their stake holders through clear written and oral communication, online and offline.