Ugandan Party Says Biometric Scans Won't End Vote-Rigging Fears

  • Voters to scan fingerprints before casting ballots on Feb. 18
  • Group says vote-counting process still vulnerable to fraud

Uganda’s main opposition said next week’s elections still face the threat of rigging, even after authorities introduced a biometric system to register voters for the polls in which President Yoweri Museveni is seeking to extend his three-decade rule.

With the $19-million system, citizens will scan their fingerprints at polling stations on Feb. 18 before casting ballots for presidential and parliamentary candidates, a step the Electoral Commission says will eliminate the chances of people voting more than once. Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, spokesman for the Forum for Democratic Change, the biggest opposition party, said the technology will have no effect on the East African nation’s vote count, where fraud can still happen.

“We would like a system that does tallying,” Nganda said by phone from the capital, Kampala. “We have our misgivings because the system is unlikely to do away with rigging.”

Museveni, 71, who’s ruled Africa’s biggest coffee exporter since January 1986, faces challenges from seven candidates in his bid for another five-year term, including Kizza Besigye, running for his fourth time, and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. European Union observers said the last presidential vote in 2011 was “marred by avoidable and logistical failures, which led to an unacceptable number of Ugandan citizens being disenfranchised.”

Biometric System

Uganda has introduced the biometric system to “cure the aspect of participating in multiple voting,” Badru Kiggundu, the commission chairman, said Tuesday in an interview in Kampala. He said his organization will oversee credible elections and dismissed criticism that it’s biased.

A total of 28,010 polling stations will be used and 149,000 police personnel deployed to avert violence in next weeks’ vote, the Kampala-based New Vision newspaper reported Monday. At least 15.3 million people are eligible to cast ballots, according to East African Business Week, which is also based in the capital.