MONETIZED POLITICS CAUSED IDEOLOGICAL DISTORTIONS IN UGANDA’S RECENT GENERAL ELECTIONS
Monetized Politics caused Ideological Distortions in Uganda’s Recent General Elections
The debate on whether it is political ideology or money that informs voter decisions has continued to gain traction on various online platforms. This subject was interrogated on ACFIM Talks last week.
According to a report by Alliance for Finance Monitoring, the ideological distortion occasioned by monetized politics especially in the races for Member of Parliament where at least every position had on average six competitors, confused and perhaps also disturbed the minds of candidates and voters during the 2021 general elections.
The report on campaign spending for Uganda’s general elections 2021, reveals that political candidates engaged in “senseless” acquisition of unfavorable loans and sale of property, to raise campaign money and stay in the race.
As a consequence, the voters who were inundated with donations in cash and in-kind, experienced excitement which distracted their ability to make meaningful decisions on Election Day. Distortion of ideology happens when candidates and political parties use private and public resources including money, to blindfold and confuse voters.
The popular acceptance of vote-buying as a normal practice in the elections by political parties, candidates, campaign agents, and the electorate, is in itself wrong and must be purged from Uganda’s elections. The practice was observed at all electoral levels, the difference was in scale and magnitude. When money becomes the major motivation for participation in elections, the democratic principle of representation is defeated.
The deliberate actions of the NRM party buying-off supporters of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party as it were, is a distortion of democracy. NUP supporters crossed to the NRM party after being bought or promised some rewards. Cases in point include the NUP Coordinator for Bunyoro sub-region, Godwin Kasigwa Angalia who shocked the party by crossing to the ruling National Resistance Movement and was received by President Yoweri Museveni.
On December 15, an online news magazine and other media outlets reported that a team of120 NUP members in Nwoya district crossed over to NRM on the promise of jobs and money. They were reportedly led by Bosco Ocitti Lawino, the former Coordinator and Registrar of NUP in Nwoya District, northern region.
Within three days to the general election, a group of over three hundred people claiming to be supporters and city riot commanders from NUP, crossed to the ruling NRM party and were paraded at Kololo Airstrip in Kampala where they were received by Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda. ACFIM monitors reported that the major driver for these cross-overs was the promise of jobs and money.
Luring NUP supporters and other opposition political parties to cross over to the NRM party on the premise of promises for jobs and money, was another typical example of controlling citizens’ electoral consent using the power of money. It is an effort fashioned to undermine the principle of fair electoral competition which is a foundational tenet of democracy.
The act of using money to muzzle voters’ freedom of expression is a subtle way of killing democracy in Uganda.