WHY IS THE RULING GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION IN UGANDA BLIND ON POLITICAL FINANCE REGULATIONS?
Why is the ruling government and opposition in Uganda blind to political finance regulations?
For the first time in the history of Uganda’s political history, the Opposition under the leadership of the National Unity Platform political party launched the first-ever “Legislative Agenda” with the mandate of keeping government in check. In his speech, while launching the Legislative agenda last Friday 29th August 2021, the Leader of Opposition, Honourable Mathias Mpuuga appealed to the members of the opposition to prioritize Constitutional and Electoral Reforms.
Whereas the Legislative Agenda has a component of Electoral reforms intended to improve on the credibility of elections in Uganda, it is devoid of provisions on campaign finance regulations. It is important to note that the unregulated use of money in Uganda’s elections has continuously been one of the major issues affecting inclusive participation and effective competition in elective politics among political parties and candidates.
On several occasions, politicians in the ruling government and opposition in Uganda have come out castigating the issue of unregulated use of money in elections, but they have failed to take a step in adopting regulations on political financing that would require that political parties and candidates declare their source of campaign money, limits on donations and cap on campaign spending be introduced so as to control the entry of dark money into Uganda’s elections.
It must be recalled that in 2019 when the electoral amendments bill was being debated in the 10th Parliament of Uganda, some of the provisions on political finance particularly on disclosure of the source of funding was among the items for consideration in the electoral laws. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee of Uganda’s 10th Parliament report highlighted that the provision on political finance regulations being fronted for consideration was piece-meal and would not holistically tackle the issue of unregulated use of money in Uganda’s elections. The committee then recommended that a comprehensive bill on political finance regulations must be tabled to parliament independently.
It would have been imperative for the members in opposition to have taken into consideration the issue of advocating for a comprehensive political finance law as recommended by the 10th parliament Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Neglecting regulation of money in elective politics raises eyebrows, but the secret known is that some political parties and political leaders in Uganda perceive the regulations on political financing as a hindrance to their political careers and would not support it.
Recent studies by ACFIM have revealed the negative influence of the high cost of politics in Uganda which has created an environment that has allowed patronage to blossom and thrive. This politics of patronage has created a demand-driven electoral system, where political candidates exploit state resources to allocate money or gifts to the electorate throughout the electoral cycle. Consequently, this undermines the right of voters to make free choices during elections, thereby corrupting their ability or willingness to seek political accountability for the delivery of public services.
In addition, the increasing cost of politics has detrimentally undermined the functionality of political parties and political organizations but rather given preeminence to bourgeoisies of the regime hence excluding the special interest groups such as youth, women, elderly, and the differently-abled persons from meaningfully participating in elective politics.
The inclusion of provisions on campaign financing within the electoral laws should be seen as an effort to build a culture of zero tolerance to electoral bribery. The President himself has on several occasions publicly committed to zero tolerance to political corruption and related acts. It is against this foundation that champions for electoral integrity should be supported to embolden strategies that sustain the gradual growth of electoral integrity in the country.
SecretsKnown sends out a clarion call to all legislators in the 11th Parliament to consider advocating for campaign finance reforms in order to positively influence the trajectory of Uganda’s electoral processes to a more open and transparent electoral processes. Such initiatives will shape national conversations that will inform subsequent discussions of the National agenda.