THE INTERSECTIONALITY BETWEEN PRIVATE SECTOR AND ELECTORAL POLITICS
The Intersectionality between Private sector and Electoral Politics
The adverse effect COVID-19 had on many businesses in Uganda is irrefutable with many of them either shutting down or succumbing to bankruptcy. However, beyond the pandemic, elections also negatively affected a number of businesses in Uganda, probably the reason Uganda’s economy is on its knees.
The strain the election had on businesses is evident in the drop of local tax revenue collection by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). For the month of September, the tax body only collected only over a trillion, and yet they had projected to collect a total of UGX 22.42 trillion ($6.2 billion) of local revenue for the financial year 2021/22. If this downward trend continues, Uganda’s annual sum of locally collected tax revenue will not even be able to finance half of the national budget. Keep in mind that Uganda’s national budget is at UGX 44.7 trillion ($12.2 billion). What then is the cause of this dilemma?
The SecretKnown is that there is an intersection between elections and business. The private sector was a major source of campaign finance for political parties and candidates that participated in the 2021 general elections. Business companies and private individuals contributed campaign finance to their preferred political parties and candidates at the different electoral levels. Most of the campaign finance donors were anonymous, thus, the exact amounts and origins of campaign finance contributions to political parties or candidates are unknown.
Observations of spending on the 2021 pre-campaign and campaign activities showed that Uganda might fall into a state of captivity by a “Cabal” of monied godfathers and businessmen who sponsor political parties and candidates. In other words, commercialization of politics begets state capture. The burden of financing campaigns often pushes candidates to work with “godfathers” or benefactors who finance campaigns expecting a financial return on their investments.
Interviews with the selected wealthy businessmen revealed that the private sector actors hate elections because they are a key target of political parties and candidates for campaign financing. It is understood that making campaign finance contributions eats into their business profits. Nonetheless, it was evident that there was a growing number of rich businessmen who got involved in politics ostensibly for quid-pro-quo reasons including gaining access to political protection for their business, or control of government contracts.
Most of the campaign finance contributions from the private sector were believed to have gone to the ruling NRM party, leaving opposition parties with few resources to promote their manifestos and flagbearers. There is a growing feeling among business owners that one must give to the ruling party and that giving to the opposition parties and/or candidates is “dangerous”
There is a sense in which companies with government contracts are afraid that they would lose government business if it transpired publicly that they made campaign finance contributions to an opposition party or candidate. Perhaps the businessmen want to be certain that their contribution will be recognized and will be remembered when it is time to call in to return the favor.
It was difficult for SecretsKnown to track direct funding to political parties and candidates because it was done in the opaquest way possible. There is always no written record of the transaction to trace.
SecretsKnown argues that when it comes to campaign financing, the relationship between political parties and candidates on one hand and the private sector, on the other hand, is fraught with corruption.