Campaign finance reforms among the raft of proposals by Uganda’s EMB ahead of the 2026 elections
A raft of proposals by Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) are in the pipeline ahead of the 2026 elections. Among the proposals is the capping of campaign spending by candidates. This is not the first time the EC has proposed and backed reforms to regulate campaign financing.
In July 2019, the Attorney General at that time, William Byaruhanga tabled five electoral amendment bills namely; Presidential Elections Amendment, Parliamentary Elections Amendment, Local Governments Amendment, Electoral Commission Amendment, and Political Parties and Organizations Amendment Bills. Campaign finance reforms were among the proposed amendments in the bills tabled before Parliament. Unfortunately, the proposed amendments on campaign financing were not considered in the final amendments. However, Parliament recommended that a stand-alone law on campaign financing be developed as opposed to scattering the provisions in the different electoral laws, a task that was deferred to the 11th Parliament as the country drew near the 2021 elections.
Four years down the road, the Electoral Commission brings back the conversation on legislating on campaign financing through its raft of proposals aimed at improving the electoral processes and leveling the playing field.
The secret known is that if the proposals sail through, it will be mandatory for political candidates to declare their finances to the Electoral Commission. It will further compel candidates to spend within the ceiling capped by the Commission to address monetisation of electoral politics. Unregulated campaign spending has been responsible for commercialised politics, manifesting in form of voter bribery and donations serving as inducements to the electorate.
The Commission has argued that the electoral proposals are informed by among others-court directives, invaluable lessons from media and election observation reports among others. ACFIM’s extended study report on Campaign Financing for Uganda General elections 2021 titled- ‘The Banknote Controlled Voter Consent’ estimates a conservative figure of UGX 3,981,806,413,435 (US$ 1,076,163,895.52) was pumped into electioneering activities for the 2021 general elections by political parties and candidates at Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government, making 2021 general elections the most expensive in Uganda’s history. The same study points out that most of this spending went into voter inducement acts accounting for 28.1 percent of the total expenditures.
Other proposed reforms include; Ugandans living in diaspora and prisoners to vote, provide for early voting of essential workers, mandating the Electoral Commission to verify aspirants’ academic documents before they are duly nominated, amendment to have the use of technology in elections backed by law.
These proposed reforms will require a buy-in from the Executive arm of government before they find their way to Parliament. Indeed, calls for comprehensive electoral reforms have been on the table for so long but largely remain within power corridors and at best conversations among technocrats, academia, civil society, and politicians.
If Electoral Commission succeeds in pushing for these reforms, it will require amendments to the electoral laws or even enacting completely new legislation like it might be the case for campaign financing.
The secret known is that Electoral Commission wants the reforms agreed on and enacted ahead of the 2026 polls.