The Petitioners of Soroti City West Division MP Seat have expressed grave dissatisfaction with the decision of the court on dismissing their petition number 10 0f 2022 saying court failed to address the real issue at hand.
Enyangu Michael Etadu, Opio Enoch, Ejoku Aaron, Anwango Mary, filed an election petition against The Electoral Commission and MP Jonathan Ebwalu challenging the legality of over 5000 voters from the wards of Opiyai and Aloet.
Justice Musa Ssekana the presiding Soroti High Court Judge on January 20, 2023 dismissed the petition saying it was not filled in accordance with the law.
“We express grave dissatisfaction with the decision of the court for having failed to address the real issue at hand,” said Enyangu while addressing the Press at Soroti Hotel on Friday January 27, 2023.
He added that, “The fundamental issue before Court was whether it was lawful for voters in the two parishes of Aloet and Opiyai to participate in the election of the directly elected Members of Parliament for both Soroti Division West and Soroti Division East within the same electoral cycle. It was our contention that this amounted to double voting which is unconstitutional and outlawed by electoral laws of the land.”
Enyangu noted that, On 14th January 2021 voters from the two parishes from Aloet (3,896 voters) and Opiyai (1,337 voters) participated in the elections for the Member of Parliament for Soroti West Division. However, in Consolidated Election Petition No.7 of 2021, the Court of Appeal ruled that Aloet and Opiyai had been illegally and wrongfully placed in Soroti West Division. The election results in Soroti East Division were nullified and Court ordered that a by-election be held in Soroti East Division.
“The legal findings of the Court of Appeal regarding the status of Soroti East Division, as a constituency, have a bearing and implications, in the corollary, for the status of the Soroti West Division as a constituency. As the Court of Appeal determined, the removal of the parishes of Opiyai and Aloet from the Soroti East Division was a nullity-as this was contrary to demarcation of constituencies of Soroti City under the Local Governments (Declaration of Cities) Notice,G.N.No.1413/2020.the placing of the two parishes in the Soroti West Division must, as a corollary, likewise be a nullity,” The Petitioners said.
“Additionally, since there was no valid election conducted in Soroti East Division because the 5,233 voters of Opilyai and Aloet parishes did not vote in the constituency which, under the law, they belonged, the corollary is that there cannot have been a valid election either in Soroti West Division Constituency because the said 5,233 voters likely voted in a constituency where they did not belong,” Opio Enoch one of the petitioners also said.
“In selective compliance with the Court of Appeal decision, the Electoral Commission allowed the voters of Opilyai and Aloet parishes-who remain part of declared and gazetted results for the directly elected Member of Parliament for Soroti West Division-to participate and vote in the by-election for the directly elected Member of Parliament for Soroti East Division. This has the effect of the voters of the two parishes voting twice for the directly elected MP in two different constituencies during the same election cycle in January 2021 and July 2022 respectively.”
“Of note, the Electoral Commission Act dictates that in the event of a transfer of voters, the names of the voters in question are to be struck off the voters’ roll for a polling station they were previously registered and, in the case of a polling station within a different constituency, struck off the voters’ roll for the constituency they were previously registered (ECA, s. 19(6)). This was not done.”
“The High Court had the opportunity to correct this anomaly. It did not. In his judgment, the Honorable Judge stated that the avenue to cure this anomaly lies in the procedure under section 60 of the Parliamentary Elections Act. Unfortunately, this misses the point. The anomaly arose in the aftermath of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Consolidated Election Petition No.7 of 2021 and the Electoral Commission’s choice on how to comply with the Court’s directions,” Added Opio.
“In our view, the court has deviated from and acted contrary to its own normative standard. The doctrine of illegality rests on the understanding that it would be contrary to public policy for the Court to ignore an illegality once it is brought to its attention. We asked the court to consider the policy behind Section 31 Parliamentary Elections Act which bars the practice of double voting. Democracy demands that the ‘one-man-one-vote’ principle must be upheld and protected at all costs. That principle is fundamental to every citizen’s right to vote. It guarantees equality before the law; a right so important that it facilitates effective participation in the governance of our country.”
“The judgment also sets a wrong precedent. For one, it is an express statement to the Electoral Commission that no sanction shall attach to selective compliance with Court Orders. Such a state of affairs is dangerous to our political landscape. It opens the door to abuse of sacrosanct principles of democracy.”