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ACFIM Talks: The Impact of Nomination Fees on Inclusive Participation In Elective Politics

Every Friday, ACFIM hosts a virtual studio dubbed ACFIM Talks. ACFIM Talks is an online space organised purposely to discuss prevalent political issues arising as we head into the 2021 elections. On the shows fifth episode last Friday, John Katumba (Presidential Candidate) and Abubaker Matanda (Lawyer & Chairperson Young African Activists Network) were hosted.
The topic of discussion was “the impact of Nomination Fees on Inclusive Participation in Elective Politics.” Matanda who has been very vocal on nomination fees argued that they are prohibitive therefore lock out the participation of vulnerable groups such as youth and women.

Uganda is ranked as a highly indebted and poor country where women and men do not own means of production and are the poorest in society. Therefore, when a monetary bar is placed, they are locked out from offering leadership. With highly commercialised politics, social service delivery becomes victim because when people get to office, they firstly seek to recover their money other than serve.
“In principle, nomination fees should not be a problem since it weeds out unserious candidates and demonstrates capacity of a leader to do resource mobilization” he contended. He insisted that the problem however comes in the amount required to be paid.

In 2015, parliament astronomically pushed the Mp nomination fee from 500,000UGX (135$) to 3 Million UGX (810$) with no clear rationale. He proposed that nomination fees should be looked at as a commitment fee so as not to appear like one is buying the position. Seriousness of a candidate can be checked through academic qualifications, experience, ideas in manifestoes other than using money as yardstick.

At 24, John Katumba is the youngest to ever contest for the presidential seat in Uganda. He joined in on this discussion from his campaign trail in Moyo. He lamented that the 20 million nomination fees aside, soliciting signatures across the country in addition to funds running the campaigns is costly.
He stated that even though the age limit was lifted, youth and women are still excluded from participating in politics. “Nomination fees were put purposely to hinder the youth participation in Ugandan politics” he added.

The nomination fee features in the constitution as a legal requirement one needs to meet before running for office. However, there is need to look at income levels, level of development of a country to determine this. Nomination fees shouldn’t be scrapped entirely but need to be reviewed. These fees may be legal but are against democracy because it infringes on the rights of the vast majority of the population that is side lined from offering leadership.
Exorbitant fees are undemocratic and this needs to be included in the electoral reforms that are being pushed. Pressure should be applied to various stakeholders to see that they are revised downwards. Most of the campaign resources should be spent in selling one’s manifesto not as a deposit to the government.

Matanda explained that resources need to come from the people who believe in leaders’ ideas as progressive. He encouraged the spirit of contributing towards funding candidates and political parties. In their conclusion, the panelists called upon stakeholders to take up the issue of nomination fees serious and join the campaign to have them revised downwards so as to have majority of the youth and women with good ideas offer leadership.

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