EC boss decries low voter turnout in past elections

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What you need to know:

  • Justice Byabakama was speaking at the one-day dialogue on the 2026 General Election organised by Kick Corruption of Uganda (KICK), an NGO, in Kabale Town.

The Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, has decried the low voter turnout in past elections, which, he said, leads to wastage of ballot papers yet the government spends a lot of money to print them from abroad.

“While the Electoral Commission registered about 18 million voters for the 2021 General Election, about 11 million voters turned up for the voting exercise. About 10 million ballot papers worth millions of shillings were wasted because of low voter turnout,” Justice Byabakama said.

“We appeal to all stakeholders to use their platforms to educate the masses on the importance of voting besides being the constitutional right for every registered voter to promote democracy and the rule of law in the country,” he added.

Justice Byabakama was on Monday speaking at the one-day dialogue on the 2026 General Election organised by Kick Corruption of Uganda (KICK), an NGO, in Kabale Town.

He also asked civil society organisations (CSOs), and local and religious leaders to support the Electoral Commission in voter education to increase voter turnout.

The EC chairperson also revealed that the electoral body organises the election exercise not for candidates but for the voters to choose their leaders. He also warned Ugandans against asking money from candidates because it perpetrates corruption, thus breaking the electoral laws.

“Putting a price on your political support means that you are auctioning democracy. Voter bribery is not only an electoral offence but a cost to the government as it has to fund a bi-election in case a candidate’s victory is cancelled,” he said.

“The government spent about Shs700m in by-election in Rukungiri District because courts of law proved that a candidate that won the election gave Shs50,000 at a church function during an electoral process. Be responsible citizens and respect the law and electoral commission guidelines if election violence is to be stamped,” Justice Byabakama added.

He also asked Ugandans to jealously guard the prevailing peace in the country by participating in a peaceful electoral process.

Dr Joseph Tindyebwa, a university lecturer from Kigali, Rwanda, who was among the panellists, stressed the need for election managers to be non-partisan if the country is to have a free and fair election.

He also called for organised political parties for proper political transition as demonstrated in countries such as Tanzania and South Africa.

Dr Mary Wasike, a lecturer at Kabale University, asked the EC to perfect the election management by providing equal opportunities for all candidates and their supporters to avoid political violence in some areas.

The Executive Director of Kick Corruption Out of Uganda, Mr Robert Byamugisha Kakuru, said the dialogue was aimed at engaging all stakeholders in Kigezi Sub-region on how to hold a violent-free election in 2026.

Later in the day, Justice Byabakama addressed students from different universities and other tertiary institutions at Kabale University where he warned them against being lured into acts of violence by politicians.