Electoral correctors in Bunyoro Sub-region want general elections to always be held on the same day countrywide to enable some people not shun subsequent scheduled polls in a row.
These argue that it has on many an occasion been observed that the electorate always snub further participation in electing their leaders after results are announced against their favourite candidates.
Most participants who attended a regional grand citizen debate at Country Inn in Masindi, noted that one of the most probable reasons for such a scenario is the deteriorating citizens’ confidence in Uganda’s electoral process.
During the debate organised by the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), participants generally wondered why the 2021 general elections indicated that only 10,744,319 out of 18,103,603 registered voters participated in the presidential and parliamentary polls.
They said it implied that only 59.35% of the registered voters turned up for polls posing a question why would people quickly register or update their voter details during a voter registration or update exercise but later decide not to participate in an election that would follow.
Mr Melchizedek Kanaginagi Ateenyi, a veteran politician who is the Masindi district National Resistance Movement (NRM) vice chairman, said most voters lose interest in turning up for local council elections after candidates of their choice losing at presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Some voters’ morale and interest in participating in local council elections dies when candidates of their choice lose presidential and parliamentary elections. These even never bother going to vote for their local council leaders,” he said.
Mr Kanaginagi’s argument was supported by the Masindi district youth councillor, Mr Simon Byaruhanga, who said voting on different days affects other people morally and consequently do not turn up for other elections when their favourite candidates in presidential and legislative seats are declared losers. He wants the general elections to be conducted on the same day.
Ms Betty Achiro, the Kiryandongo district councillor, said that often times, voters are put off after realising that political malpractices are at play.
“Sometimes, lack of transparency by the electoral commission plays a central role in causing low voter turn up. There are scenarios when the electoral commission announces a loser as a winner. This demotivates voters,” she said.
The Member of Parliament for Buruuli County in Masindi district, Mr Ronald Aled Akugizibwe, expressed worry that some learned people and the rich do not participate in elections leaving the exercise to the poor yet politics affects everybody regardless of one’s status quo.
The law maker said a section of people’s failure to involve themselves in the electoral process is dangerous to society as one will be led by a person not of their choice.
The Mid-western Region Anti-Corruption Coalition (MIRAC) Executive Director, Mr Ismail Kusemererwa, was displeased that voter and civic education is conducted late yet the earlier it is conducted, the good levelled platform will be for the electorate to participate in electoral processes within the ambit of political knowledge.
“Voter education is started late which sometimes causes low voter turn up and increased spoilt votes. Civic education especially on the right to vote should be crucial because it is a determinant of the leaders we get. Our voter turnout is still low because maybe we have not shown people the importance of voting,” Mr Kusemererwa said.
Mr Wilfred Kusemererwa, the Kiguulya Division Chairman in Masindi municipality, wants the minimum qualification for all political leaders to be established saying politicians sometimes supervise university graduate technocrats, thus, becoming hard for them to feel comfortable in their supervisory role.
The Pakanyi Sub-county Chairman in Masindi district, Mr Frank Asiimwe, wants the government to regulate the amount of money injected in political campaigns saying the current political environment in Uganda has been highly monetised.
“If money is not regulated, it will be like creating an opportunity for only the rich, hence, blocking other people who have leadership skills,” he argued during the debate.
The former Minister of the Presidency and current Masindi District NRM Chairperson, Ms Kabakumba Labwoni Matsiko, said for Uganda to have smooth elections, electoral reforms should be considered.
She hailed FOWODE for organising such a debate as the country heads towards general elections in 2026.
“The issue of electoral reforms needs to be addressed seriously. Electoral reforms are necessary if we are to have a smooth electoral process. The debate is timely because we are about to start preparing for elections,” she said.
Although the Member of Parliament for Masindi Municipality (FDC), Mr Joab Busiinge, promised to do the necessary to ensure the participants’ ideas reach the floor of parliament, he said a blessing from the executive arm of the government is final in this matter to have the reforms implemented.
The leaders’ views were aired out as FOWODE prepared to launch a national campaign for electoral reforms in order to provide space for the public to discuss and draw recommendations and proposals on political and constitutional reforms.
The debate was attended by members from different Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), political parties, women, electoral commission officials and the press among others.
Ms Maureen Kyomuhendo, the FOWODE Field Officer Masindi, said the collected recommendations will be presented at the national debate.
Working under Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Elections (SCENE) – an eight year activity funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), FOWODE is implementing the programme in partnership with the Uganda National NGO Forum.
The programme is being implemented through a network of organisations in Bunyoro, Tooro, West Nile, Teso, Bukedi, Kigezi, Busoga, Sebei, Lango, Karamoja and Buganda regions.