Analysts urge Electoral Commission to ensure free and fair elections in 2026

Political analysts in Kigezi sub-region have urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to prepare thoroughly for the 2026 general elections to ensure peaceful and fair elections.

This call was made on Monday during a regional dialogue on the 2026 general elections held at the White Horse Inn in Kabale Municipality. The event was organized by Kick Corruption Out of Uganda (KICK-U) in association with the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF).

Dr. Mary Wasike Bekoreire, Professor at the Department of Governance, Faculty of Social Sciences, Kabale University, emphasized that the EC should address issues of the 2021 general elections such as vote manipulation, intimidation, commercialization of politics and the deployment of security agents to harass opposition candidates and supporters.

Wasike noted that low voter turnout often indicates a disinterest in politics. She attributed this to several factors, including electoral violence, vote manipulation, commercialization of elections, and voter intimidation. “These issues contribute significantly to lack of voter participation,” she said.

Wasike further noted that some citizens feel that their vote does not matter, believing that the incumbent government will retain power anyway. “To improve election integrity, we must address these concerns comprehensively,” he said.

Former Deputy Secretary-General of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Dr Joseph Tindyebwa, has highlighted the importance of the EC taking measures to prevent human rights violations and abuses by security agencies during the 2026 elections.

Kick Corruption Out of Uganda Executive Director Kakuru Robert Byamugisha emphasized the need to establish partnerships and collaboration with the Electoral Commission and the Human Rights Commission to promote civic education and voter awareness at both the district and district levels. parish. “Strengthening these collaborations is essential to improve voter turnout and ensure fair elections,” Kakuru said.

Byamugisha said the EC will enhance collaboration with civil society organizations to promote civic and voter education for the 2026 elections. He also recommended that the EC involve lower government structures to ensure that Ugandans are well informed about the democratic processes.

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Justice Simon Byabakama, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, called on the public to actively participate and respect the electoral process, highlighting that fair and transparent elections are a collective responsibility.

As Uganda approaches the 2026 general elections, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Byabakama, has vehemently criticized the commercialization of polls by any interested party, saying the law is “unacceptable”.

Justice Byabakama said many stakeholders are involved in elections and therefore the Commission cannot be entirely blamed for the vice.

“One of the candidates for the national elections told me: ‘President, go to a rally; you are addressing the people; then they begin to make signs; We are thirsty; You can do something?’ What do you do for a living? We need to discuss this. The commercialization of our electoral processes is unacceptable.

Everyone looks at the Election Commission; You’re in charge. However, an election involves many stakeholders: there are non-Election Commission candidates, there are non-Election Commission supporters, there are political parties and there are civil society organisations. Each of them has a critical role to play in the pursuit of free and fair elections,” Byabakama said.

The commercialization of politics, characterized by the influence of financial power on democratic processes, undermines the fundamental principles of justice and equality in the electoral process.

Byabakama noted that engaging in bribery and violence against voters undermines the pursuit of free and fair elections, adding that blaming the Commission for this is disingenuous.

“If you engage in voter bribery, you are doing a disservice to the pursuit of free and fair elections. So, let’s join hands. If the people of Uganda want free, fair and credible elections, each of us must recognize the role we are required to play and perform according to the books and the law. “I can assure you that it is very possible to have peaceful and credible elections in this country, without violence and without anything that contaminates a free and fair election.”

Justice Byabakama highlighted that low voter turnout has been a recurring concern for the Commission. He noted that despite registering more than 18.5 million voters for the 2021 general election, the final count on presidential election day did not exceed 11 million voters. “During the planning process, we prepared for all registered voters, but low voter turnout results in a waste of government resources, including unused ballots,” he explained.

Justice Byabakama appealed to local leaders to collaborate with the Electoral Commission to encourage voters to recognize the importance of voting. “It is crucial that leaders at all levels join us in promoting voter education and participation,” he urged.

The high-level dialogue was attended by Kigezi Resident District Commissioners, religious leaders, political party representatives, Kigezi Region LCV chairpersons, councilors and civil organisations, among others.