Published by Patra K on

Report on Pre-Campaign Spending for 2021 General Election

ACFIM has been monitoring pre-campaign spending by aspiring political candidates across 29 districts of Uganda over a period of 16 months (July 2019 to October 2020). ACFIM has put together a report that has interesting findings seeking to explain why political aspirants spent massively in the pre-campaign period in Uganda.  

Immediately after an election cycle, losers start spending in order to seize power meanwhile the incumbents spend to retain power. The report cited that the tragedy of Uganda’s electoral democracy is that the ballot paper has been turned into a bank note.

Findings from the report show that the electoral space in Uganda continues to be masculinised. Out of the sampled 615 aspirants for the Direct MP seat, only 24 are female and for the District chairperson seat, only 2 are female out of the 116 aspirants.

In the mayoral position for cities and municipalities, there are still only 2 women out of 57 aspirants. There has been a notable decline in women participation from 2016 elections with a deterioration in women contesting for higher positions from presidential to Direct seat member of parliament.

Women continue to be excluded from political participation because of existent patriarchy deeply rooted in tradition. The monetary factor can’t be ignored either because this poses challenges to women that don’t have access to resources hence can’t equally compete with men.

In regard to youth participation in politics, the report demonstrates that out of the 615 candidates for the Direct MP seat, 28.5% are youth, for the 151 aspirants for district/city woman representative, 17.5% are youth.11% of the 116 candidates for the District Chairperson position are youth and lastly 5% of the 57 candidates for mayor of cities and municipalities are young people between the ages of 18 to 35.

Despite the high costs related to politics limiting youth participation, there has been an increase in youth participation from 2016 elections. This could be attributed to massive civic engagement of youth to actively engage in politics. Youth have acknowledged that with or without money, they need to engage in politics because they have good ideas.

The report also highlights the previous employment of political aspirants showing an increase in number of persons from civil service joining politics. The report unveiled that 21.04% out of 615 aspirants had previously been employed in the civil service. Civil service is one of the most underpaid sectors in Uganda. This therefore raises questions on how civil servants get the money they are seen splashing around in campaigns pointing to political corruption.

16.08% of the aspirants contesting are incumbents who are seeking re-election where as 27.3% of the 615 candidates are persons that have been in politics and are making a political comeback turning politics into a job. 22.68% are private business owners and majority of these businessmen’s interest is to capture power and use the system to their advantage.

0.03% of the aspirants are from National Leadership structures like the National Youth Council. ACFIM commends national leadership structures like these especially for youth so as to gain experience and leadership skills. In Uganda, many politicians simply emerge out of nowhere and do not go through mentoring or grooming like it should be in a functional democracy.

The report also established that aspirants in Uganda spent a minimum of $67.5 million.  89.7% of the aspiring candidates surveyed used money as their preferred campaign strategy rather than ideologies and manifestos.

The monitoring findings indicated that the pre-campaign trail was highly monetized. Money definitely dictated the outcomes in electoral success with 85.8% of the high spenders becoming flagbearers in their respective parties. Some candidates even went unopposed. 

The image above shows the forms of pre-campaign spending that aspirants engaged in. Analysis shows that the highest forms of pre-campaign spending were on services that are ideally supposed to be provided by the state. This stresses a shift from constitutional obligations to socially constructed leadership roles magnifying the absence of a social welfare state

In district ranking, Sheema topped the list in campaign spending, followed by Bushenyi district, all which are in the Western region where the current president hails form. There is a general country wide perception that this region is highly favoured thus explaining the high spending.

With the unexplainable outrageous expenditure by aspirants in the pre-campaign spending, the report tries to describe why spending could have escalated. COVID 19 and its post effects like the collapsing economy was cited as the lead cause, followed by the absence of social services and a desperate and poor electorate. The nature of hybrid elections has also bred increase in costs of media.

According to the report, about 219 political aspirants across different positions dropped of the races and this only emphasizes that money breeds political exclusion.  

Sources of pre-campaign spending were identified most being private sources. Savings took the first position followed by credit/loans, business persons, pension schemes and property sales last. Many people sell off their property to collect money to run their campaigns with hope of recouping all this once they get into political office.

“Democracy cannot be funded using personal money. It’s the reason why politicians have been shattered and tattooed by poverty during and after their terms.” The danger with aspirants raising pre-campaign resources personally is because it induces political corruption.

Ordinarily in other countries, campaign funds are sourced from the electorate and this is the reason ACFIM salutes politicians like Nancy Kalembe, the only female in the presidential race, Mugisha Muntu a presidential candidate who has been pushing the 10K support drive, a fundraising strategy to raise funds for his campaigns.

ACFIM continues to encourage politicians that are beginning to re write the narrative of political funding to develop a culture where the electorate contribute towards campaign expenses.

Aside from political aspirants, the report also shed light on Political parties showing that in totality, they spent an estimate of 16.2 Billion UGX ($4,378,378) on organizing delegates’ conferences, conducting party primaries and contributing nomination fees to flag bearers.

Cumulatively, out of the $4,378,378, the National Resistance Movement spent $3,076,756 followed by Democratic Party that spent $697,783, Forum for Democratic Change spent $359,189, Uganda People’s Congress $119,189, National Unity Platform $67,891. The Alliance for National Transformation used $4,1621 and lastly Justice Forum $26,972.

Note should be taken that this figure is only a minimum because It is impossible to track all campaign spending since some of the transactions are made through mobile money, some in the night. On top of this, there is no law that requires aspirants to declare their expenditure.

The report identified sources of political party funding as: membership fees, monthly remittances from parliamentary flag bearers, anonymous donations and nomination fees.

Following the findings from this report, this has become the highest figure in pre-campaign expenditure ever recorded in Uganda from prior years. This outrageous spending indicates that commercialization of politics is getting out of hand in Uganda. The report predicts that the monitoring findings that will be revealed after the 2021 general Elections are concluded may even surpass the pre campaign findings.  

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