Published by Patra K on

Electoral Colleges have Become Hotbeds for Vote Buying

Returning Officer West Nile, Jackson Higenyi surrounded by the rowdy Youth Delegates. (Photo Courtesy of the Independent)

On the 22nd January 2021, chaotic scenes were observed at Mvara senior secondary school in Arua City. The cause? Money. Over 400 youth delegates representing different districts gathered as an electoral college to vote for the National Female Youth Representative to Parliament.

When it transpired that Electoral Commission had budgeted to facilitate each of them with UGX 530,000 ($143) for their transport, meal allowance and accommodation, they were riled, and they demanded that each delegate be facilitated with UGX 2,000,000 ($540).  

Some youth delegates were captured in the videos posted on the Facebook page of the Daily Monitor, chanting that “no money no voting, we shall destroy the ballot papers if not given money”.

These ugly scenes beg the question, how did we get here? Did the Electoral Commission notify the youth delegates early enough about how much money they were to receive? What is the level of openness and transparency exhibited by the electoral management body?

Secrets known learned that the youth delegates were initially informed that they would be reimbursed with UGX 2,000,000 ($540) but upon reaching Arua, the narrative reportedly changed. Suddenly, it was communicated that facilitation for each delegate had been reduced to UGX 530,000 ($143). After negotiations, it was agreed that each delegate receives UGX 750,000 ($202).

The secret known is that college elections have been a hotbed for monetized elections. The small number of voters in an electoral college increase the premium of every voter hence rising the price of the ballot.

Whether they were elections of youth, workers, people with disabilities or the elderly, makes voter bribery the mainstay in the college elections. And after experiencing such ugly scenes, what next then? Should we as a country continue holding Special Interest Groups (SIGs) elections under a College system or we need to rethink?

Has the time not come for Uganda to start thinking about moving away from conducting SIGs under Electoral College system because it has proved to be a fertile ground which allows voter bribery to blossom and thrive?

The manner in which candidates vying for elective positions are held at ransom by delegates in the electoral colleges by imposing unrealistic demands to candidates such as meeting the costs of their accommodation, transport refund and also meal allowance, defeats the very essence of democracy.

The secret known is that the electoral colleges have turned into money making ventures where delegates extract enormous sums of money from candidates. Moving forward, it is important for youth to begin realizing that if they meaningfully participate in decision-making processes without being incentivized, they will be sowing a seed that will help usher in a healthy political hygiene in Uganda.

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