Published by Patra K on

Why did most political aspirants opt to contest as independents?

Uganda’s 2021 general elections attracted 2,664 candidates who contested for the 499 parliamentary positions that were available for Directly Elected Member of Parliament (DEMP) and District Woman Representative (DWR) with the exception of 30 positions availed for Special Interest Group representatives.

Out of the 2,664 candidates nominated for Directly Elected Member of Parliament (DEMP) and District Woman Representative (DWR), 1,334 ran as independent candidates. Eastern region had the most number of independent parliamentary candidates at 497, followed by Northern region with 294, Western 280 and least came Central region with 263 as illustrated below.

It must be noted that out of the 1,334 independent parliamentary candidates that contested, only 73 won the elections, implying that only 5% of the 1,334 won. This is a clear indicator that Ugandan voters appreciate the multi-party dispensation shown by their preference of voting candidates that contested under political party sponsorship. This leaves us with a number of questions begging for answers. What makes candidates opt to run as independent candidates yet their chances of winning an election under political party sponsorship is high?

It is important for us to understand that even though political parties are instrumental in deepening democratic advancement, most political aspirants in Uganda today do not look at political parties as embodiments of political ideology and platforms for mentoring future leaders. Why? Most Political parties are in captivity by either an individual or group of individuals who largely finance the operations of the parties. 

Political party financing in Uganda is still a challenge with majority of the parties surviving majorly on contributions from party founders and not members, in the process, the founders become more powerful than the party itself. As such, they often use this financial advantage to control and influence decision-making processes in the party, consciously or subconsciously capturing the parties.

This capture leads to internal party politics that determines who contests on the party ticket to be settled by a few cliques of individuals who make huge financial contributions to the political party. This undemocratic process has led most political aspirants to opt to contest as independents and not on party tickets. Even those who attempt to go through the political party process, end up running as independents accusing political parties of foul play.

The foul play manifests in form of ring-fencing of political positions which is done through hiking of nomination fees, handpicking of candidates especially those with money, and selling of party positions. Such difficulties that political aspirants face while trying to associate with political parties explain why many of them had no chance other than vying for political positions as independent candidates.

Addressing the problem of independent candidates will require deliberate strengthening of political parties to address the underlying internal weakness that is partly a result of the financing gaps existing within parties. Until then, the problem of independent candidates will exacerbate at the expense of deepening multi-party politics in Uganda. SecretsKnown, therefore, suggests that it is time for politicians to consider contesting under party sponsorship rather than running as independents.

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