Published by Patra K on

2021 elections are the most expensive Uganda has seen

“2021 was a tug of war regarding finances. We spent till we couldn’t spend anymore, but we had to continue spending”. This revelation was made by Ms. Aisha Waliggo, a former candidate for Kalungu woman Member of Parliament.

Ms. Waliggo who has now contested twice and lost (2016 and 2021), spoke during the weekly live virtual talk show known as ACFIMTalks. In her view, the cost of losing an election inflicts more severe effects on female candidates than it does on their male counterparts.

Waliggo further revealed that the 2021 elections were far more expensive than the previous elections (2016) which she also participated in. “In 2016, I spent about UGX 70 million ($19,069), but this time around, I have spent more than UGX 300 million ($19,069)”, she said.

She explained that like many other aspiring candidates, she was on ground right after the 2016 elections attending burials, fundraising events, associating with groups of youth, women, and other potential voters, which were all expensive. This was because the ordinary Ugandan voter often goes for the candidate that has invested in social projects on the ground.

Ms. Waliggo reinforced ACFIM’s preliminary analysis that campaigns for 2021 elections are the most expensive Uganda has seen. She attributed this partly to the electorate being in a sorry economic state as a consequence of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

She drew parallels between previous elections and stated that unlike the 2016 election where one only needed to have campaign rallies, the 2021 election campaigns required canvassing for votes door-to-door over an expansive constituency covering a radius of about 80 kilometers. COVID had financially hit people, business had been shut, people lost jobs therefore the electorate looked at it as an opportunity to get what they had lost from the candidates

Voters invited candidates for several functions with expectations of getting money out of them. Some voters even clearly stated that they didn’t care if their representatives legislated or not in parliament, all that mattered is if they were given some money.

Ms. Waliggo explained that commercialization of politics evidently discourages women from participating in politics. She lamented over the geographical scope she had to cover which increased costs in fuel and other expenses that come with campaigns. She had to cover seven sub-counties unlike her male counterparts on the direct seat who only had two, to cover.

In addition to this, the Electoral Commission provided for only 60 days for campaigns yet women had a wider area to cover. She also cited sexual harassment especially from politicians in political parties who try to manipulate women in exchange for their support. Women also have to withstand uncomfortable questions from voters about their marital status she decried.

Waliggo attributed her ability to overcome the challenges she faced to the various mentorship programs she has gone through which prepared her on how to manage a campaign. Even when she constantly dealt with unending demands from voters for money, Aisha made her campaign issue-based and educated the electorate that it was not her responsibility to give handouts or deliver but rather aspiring to legislate on their behalf.

She revealed that mobilizing resources as a woman is difficult, and was very grateful to the Democratic Party that she belongs to who contributed 3 million UGX ($817) for the nomination fees as well as posters to all candidates. The Democratic Party has also invested in facilitating mentorships for their members in networking, resource mobilization to equip them in preparation for the elections.

The secret known here is that candidates start campaigning immediately after an election cycle. “Early preparation is very critical for women joining politics,” she said. She advised politicians to put aside funds for the election day.

SecretsKnown discovered that expenses on this day are way higher than pre-election day expenses because of the many costs involved. These include feeding, transporting a least of 600 polling agents, vote protectors who are deployed in between polling stations to guard against vote-rigging, ballot ticking, and stuffing.

She stressed that an election is not a do-or-die affair and candidates should expect to either win or lose hence they should not sell off their property but simply minimize resources and plan ahead. They also have to look beyond giving money but deliver in terms of presentation, capacity as well as seek their friends and family also offer support.

Aisha also pointed out that when elections are fast approaching, politicians take advantage of the economically vulnerable youth who are paid a little token to canvass for the votes. They are however abandoned once the election is concluded.

Despite her loss, Aisha remains positive and celebrates her ability to change lives, and considers her experience a win.

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