The High Court has upheld the election of ruling National Resistance Movement party’s Herbert Edmund Ariko as the Soroti East Division MP.
Opposition Forum for Democratic Change’s Moses Attan Okia run to the court to challenge the declaration of Ariko as winner of the July 28, 2022 by-election citing malpractices, military involvement in the polls and detention of his party agents.
On Friday, Justice Musa Ssekaana of the Soroti High Court ruled that there is no sufficient evidence to overturn the election of Ariko.
The judge explained that when one alleges malpractice, the onus is on them to prove how the same had a substantial effect on the outcome of the election
“Acts which may be regarded sufficient to substantially affect the result of an election need not be widespread non-compliance. It may be acts which occur only in one or few places, yet their effect are so significant to the overall result of the election between the candidates. When a petitioner alleges non-compliance, he must satisfy the court that such non-compliance was substantial enough to affect the overall result of the election. It invariably means that cogent and compelling evidence must be adduced to establish that the election was substantially affected by such noncompliance,” Justice Ssekaana ruled.
“Likewise where the petitioner questions an election result on the ground that the respondent was not elected by majority of lawful or valid votes cast at the election, the petitioner must go further to show the votes accredited to the respondent and the number of votes alleged to be invalid and the reason(s) for their invalidity and that if such allegedly invalid votes are subtracted from the respondents score the remaining valid votes will qualify the petitioner as a winner of the election against the respondent who has been returned.”
Quoting Section 61 (1)(a) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, the judge ruled that a mere allegation of electoral malpractice of invalidity of votes without tangible evidence to show how the same substantially affected the outcome of the election is no basis for overturning it.
“ Nullification of an election is a very serious sanction which can be inflicted on an election already conducted. It should only be imposed in very rare situations and only after well-established reasons have been adduced in support of such a decision. The success of a winning candidate at an election cannot be lightly interfered with or taken away without any justification rooted in law and cogent evidence.”
In the resultant case, Justice Ssekaana ruled there was no evidence to prove the allegations of malpractice and how they had substantially affected the outcome of the election and consequently threw out the petition.
“In sum therefore, this petition fails and is dismissed with costs and I so order.”