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Observer from Uganda - where opposition leader was under house arrest - to check Ladywood election

Long history of problems in inner-city ward

A delegate from Uganda – where an opposition leader was placed under house arrest last year – will be checking for general election foul play in a Birmingham constituency.

The politician from the African nation will join colleagues from Guyana, Mauritius and Australia in scrutinising proceedings in Ladywood.

The observers are being sent to Birmingham by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA UK), which is monitoring voting and counting processes in eight constituencies nationwide.

During the 2015 election, observers in Ladywood found activists breaking the law by campaigning inside polling stations.

They also found couples and entire extended families going into voting booths together in apparent attempts to sway voting intentions.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni extended his 30-year grip on power last year after he was declared the winner of a general election despite an outcry from the opposition.

CNN reported that his closest competitor, opposition leader Kizza Besigye, was under house arrest, with no-one allowed in or out to see him.

But Birmingham has its own long and sorry history of alleged and proven misconduct in elections.

Remember when dogs at polling stations was a big thing?

In 2005, five Labour councillors in Aston and Bordesley Green were sacked by the council after a case in which it was claimed postal votes had been forged on “an industrial scale” during the June 2004 ballot.

Upholding allegations of vote rigging on that occasion, Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC infamously concluded there had been “massive, systematic and organised fraud” that would “disgrace a banana republic”.

Last year Birmingham sent a team of independent inspectors, including retired police officers and lawyers to monitor polling stations during the local elections.

This year the Commonwealth observers will be in Birmingham from June 4 to 9 and led by Raphael Trotman MP, from Guyana in South America.

CPA UK chief executive Andrew Tuggey said: “This is a vital element of CPA UK’s commitment to enhance openness and transparency in parliamentary democracy across the Commonwealth.

“Assessing elections upholds the core values of the Commonwealth.

“I warmly welcome parliamentarians and election officials from across the Commonwealth and thank them for their commitment.

“Their assessments will add value to the UK’s electoral processes, and I know they will find the Mission extremely interesting and worthwhile.”

Outcomes of previous CPA missions

In Birmingham in 2010 there were angry scenes as a late surge of voters in Jewellery Quarter were locked out of polling stations when they closed at 10pm.

As a result of this voters queuing when polling stations close at 10pm can still cast their votes as previously polling stations operated different rules which led to confusion.

The 2015 report highlighted a number of areas for improvement such as preventing political campaigning in nearby polling stations on Election Day, ensuring polling stations are accessible to those with limited mobility, and ensuring the secrecy of the vote is not compromised due to overcrowded polling stations.


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