EQUALISING THE CONDITIONS FOR ELECTORAL COMPETITION
Equalising the Conditions for Electoral Competition
For the first time in 10 years, the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) has released political party funds in respect of elections which will be shared on an equal basis. The total amount released is UGX 2.5 billion ($0.7 million) to be shared among 5 political parties represented in Parliament.
This comes after ACFIM threatened to litigate against MoFPED for consistently ignoring section 14(b) of the Political Parties and Organizations Act (as amended) 2005, which enjoins government to finance political parties in respect of elections.
Since 2010 when the amendment of the Political Parties and Organizations Act to provide for use of Government or other public resources for political party and organization activities came into force, MoFPED has only followed section 14(c), which relates to funding political parties in respect of day-to-day running.
Funding for day-to-day running is according to the Act, shared on the basis of numerical strength in Parliament. Hence the lion’s share of it has always gone to the dominant NRM party.
The secret known is that the Electoral Commission had since 2010 been reluctant to push government to finance political parties on equal basis in respect of elections. Financing political parties for election would inadvertently strengthen competition against the incumbent NRM party.
On 19th October, 2020, ACFIM called upon the Ministry of Finance to appropriate funds to political parties in respect of elections, which according to the Act, must be shared on equal basis among political parties represented in Parliament.
These Political parties include; National Resistance Movement, Forum for Democratic Change, Democratic Party, Uganda People’s Congress and Justice Forum. This means that each political party will receive UGX 500million to facilitate their electoral activities.
Release of public funds to political parties in respect of elections 2021 comes at an opportune moment when many of them were facing a huge mountain to climb in terms of training and facilitating polling agents, and coordinating election day activities.
The 2010 amendment that enjoins government to provide funding to political parties was intended to ensure that political parties are able to provide meaningful competition in the electoral arena to avert the undesired situation of a one-horse race.
Political parties are the wheels on which democracy moves, and yet political parties cannot serve this purpose if they are not adequately financed. The shrinking civic and political space has made it difficult for the political parties to fundraise leaving public funding as the most viable option.
The issue is openness, transparency and accountability of the public funds disbursed to political parties under the Political Parties and Organizations Act (as amended) 2005.