In my quest to better understand the dynamics and direction of politics in Uganda especially during this 2020/2021 electoral season in Uganda, I am stunned with these study findings and yet so true. Ugandans have just elected the next President of Uganda and the members of the 11th Parliament that will have 529 MPs where 145 are directly elected woman MPs. The Report on The Impact of The Cost Of Politics On Inclusive Political Participation In Uganda (2020); a study conducted by WFD that used a comparative and gendered approach to estimate the cost of politics, using a set of pre-identified variables regularly incurred by both candidates seeking political office and elected representatives while in office.
In my view the 2021 elections cost is likely to have been much higher than this study because of the COVID 19 which saw scientific approaches imposed to avoid big rallies as a preventive measure i.e. use of radio, social media gatherings of not more than 200 people, adhere to SOPs etc.
This consideration was in line with the notion that analysis of election delivery and management should not be looked at in the realm of an event but rather as a cycle. The study arrived at both statistical and qualitative evidence regarding the cost of politics in Uganda. Interesting findings include:
Overall, the average amount of money spent by a candidate during the 2016 primary and general elections was estimated by the study to be 465 million Ugandan shillings (UGX) or 136,084 US dollars for parliamentary candidates, and UGX 237.5 million (USD 69,505) for Local Council V (LCV) chairpersons.
At parliamentary level, the study found that candidates from the mainstream constituencies spent UGX 458.2 million while female counterparts running for affirmative action district women’s seats spent UGX 496.4 million over both primary and general elections.
a. The average amount of money spent by participants during the party primary elections ahead of the 2016 general elections was UGX 222 million (USD 64,969) and UGX 118 million (USD 34,533) for parliamentary candidates and LCV chairpersons, respectively. These estimates are irrespective of level of success, political party or gender.
b. The average amount of money spent during the parliamentary and LCV elections ahead of the 2016 general elections was UGX 242.9 million (USD 71,085) and UGX 118.6 million (USD 34,708) for parliamentary candidates and LCV chairpersons, respectively.
- Personal resources and contributions from family and friends topped the sources of campaign finances for respondents with 98.6% and 74.3% for parliamentary candidates and LCV chairpersons respectively.
a. When the data was gender disaggregated, 81.6% of male respondents reported to have secured loans to finance their political campaigns as opposed to 18.4% of females.
b. 68.9% of male respondents also reported to have secured funding from their political parties as opposed to 30.1% of female respondents.
The average cost of maintaining an office on a monthly basis is UGX 32 million (USD 9,363) for parliamentary office holders, with the Central region the most expensive at UGX 48 million (USD 14,045), followed by Western at UGX 30 million, Northern at UGX 28 million and Eastern at UGX 25 million (USD 7,320).
The study highlights several factors driving the cost of politics including the challenges of public service delivery at the local level, weak enforcement of campaign rules, lack of civic consciousness among the electorate, parliamentary emoluments and privileges acting as an incentive and the way that patronage politics continues to characterise the multiparty dispensation. (Average USD exchange rate in 2016 was 3417.4377 UGX)
This report argues that patronage has enabled President Museveni of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to dispense rents to loyal cadres through political appointments that come with access to state resources for political mobilisation. These rents, and other incentives accruing through Museveni’s political appointments, have made electoral politics competitive at the sub-national level and consequently a do or die endeavour, resulting in stiff intra-NRM competition across the various stages of the electoral cycle, wherein the highest bidder often wins out.
The cost of politics is negatively influencing Uganda’s nascent democracy. This politics of patronage is driving a clientelistic electoral system, where ruling party candidates exploit state resources to allocate money or gifts to the electorate throughout the electoral cycle. This consequently undermines the right of voters to make free choices during elections, thereby corrupting their ability or willingness to seek political accountability for the delivery of public services. Furthermore, the increasing cost of politics undermines the functionality of political parties and organisations, and instead elevates individuals with resources and connections to centres of power. Ultimately, several categories of Ugandans including youth and women are excluded from electoral and political participation because they cannot afford the costs required.
Overall this does not favor women and instead makes it much harder for women to participate in politics in Uganda. Therefore, its critical to review the criteria for public financing of political parties in current laws to provide funding based on electoral participation of special interest groups such as youth, women, and persons living with disabilities. This will encourage political parties to sponsor more special interest groups and enhance the inclusivity of political participation.
Tackle patriarchal politics. Strengthen the legal and policy infrastructure for campaign finance support especially for women. A special fund for women’s political participation is required to support a new breed of women leaders able to take independent decisions, and able to make policies and laws aimed at serving the populace and achieving gender equality, as opposed to serving the political party and embedded godfathers.https://www.wfd.org/2020/10/29/cost-of-politics-in-uganda/wfd_nimd_repor...