Uganda’s elections are increasingly getting monetized so much that good candidates without a strong financial muscle stand to lose, a new report has revealed.
According to research findings by Alliance for Election Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) in a research study dubbed; unregulated campaign spending and its impact on electoral participants in Uganda, candidates vying for parliamentary seats in the 2021 general elections are set to spend a minimum of Shs500m to fund their campaigns.
The research findings were released Tuesday in Kampala during a public dialogue on electoral reforms organised by Westminister Foundation for Democracy.
Henry Muguzi, the Executive Director at Alliance for Election Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) said the study showed that electoral financing has been growing since 1996, but exponentially increased in 2005 when Uganda returned to multiparty democracy.
He said many candidates pump a lot of money in campaigns because they consider political positions as full time employment.
This, he said, has bred ground for political corruption, weak political accountability, poor service delivery and breakdown of trust in democratic process of the election which has in part bred voter apathy.
“The study estimates that a minimum campaign spending for MPs in 2021 (elections) to be in excess of Shs500m. Public perception is that business and rich individuals will bankroll the election. Electorates also think that seekers of political office are driven primarily by their material self interest,” Muguzi said, adding that the study also revealed that electoral outcomes over the past 3 electoral cycles have not translated into improved livelihood and that voters respond only to money not ideology.
The study also cautioned that as a result of the heavy election financing, this would lead to collapse of personal businesses because those who have business empires spend their money on election; some candidates will fail to finance living costs and lead to depletion of all personal savings especially for incumbents.
In its recommendations, the report called for enactment of standalone election campaign finance legislation in accordance with good governance; carry out rigorous and sustained civic education aimed at changing the commercialized attitude of electorate.
The report also called for tightening provisions on voter buying to bar culprits from contesting for at least five years especially political leaders whose election are nullified in court of law.
Joseph Munyangabo, Country Representative Westminster Foundation for Democracy said that he hopes Uganda will begin having a conversation on one of the most important elements in elections (financing) and how it has affected participation and meaningful representation.