The chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Justice Simon Byabakama, has said commercialisation of politics has distorted democratic purposes in the country.
Justice Byabakama made the remarks on Monday during a regional stakeholders’ meeting on demarcation of electoral areas and re-organisation of polling stations in Mbarara District ahead of the 2021 General Election.
He said the commercialisation of politics has not only led to electing incapable leaders but also makes the cost of organising elections expensive.
“The use of money in an election to entice voters makes it difficult to get a credible leader,” Justice Byabakama said.
“An election may be cancelled because you bribed voters with Shs10,000 or Shs20,000. Repeating the election is very costly to government and even candidates. Government can incur more than Shs700 million,” he said.
Justice Byabakama also advised leaders from all political parties to participate in voter education to ensure free and fair elections.
He warned those who rush to foreign countries for help in national elections.
“The elections are for Ugandans. Some of our politicians instead of joining us to organise credible elections rush to foreign countries and the media such as CNN. We cannot run our country on foreign missions,” Justice Byabakama cautioned.
The EC boss said some doomsayers have already predicted that 2021 election will be violent but he challenged Ugandans to prove the pessimists wrong.
However, some opposition leaders in the meeting said violence is always perpetuated by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party through security agencies.
Mr Stanley Katembeya, the chairperson of Forum for Democratic Change in Mbarara, said: “The NRM government is the perpetrator of violence through the security agencies, police, army and the Resident District Commissioners. Unless they restrain from working for the ruling party and become a people’s institutions, it will be difficult to have a violent-free election.”
But the Rwizi regional police commander, Mr Richard Ocega, contested the view saying instead it is the Opposition with the defiance approach that fails to comply with laws and regulations guiding elections in the country.
Mr Robert Mwesigwa Rukaari, the chairperson of NRM entrepreneurs league, said: “Whether NRM or the Opposition, violence is unacceptable in our society and it should be condemned by every Ugandan irrespective of their political affiliation.”