HOW MONEY PROCURED THE UNOPPOSED STATUS OF PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES
How Money Procured the Unopposed Status of Parliamentary Candidates
12 candidates went through unopposed for Member of Parliament and 07 unopposed for District Chairperson in the 2021 general elections, all flag bearers of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. Whereas on nomination day only six were unopposed for MP races, the number kept growing due to withdrawal of their competitors. In the 2016 general elections, there were 09 parliamentary candidates who sailed through unopposed, all flag bearers of the NRM party.
Preliminary findings by ACFIM’s report on campaign spending demonstrated the power of banknotes in diffusing political competition allowing some candidates to go through unopposed. Below is a list of the Members of Parliament who went through the 2021 general elections unopposed.
Name of Legislator
Hon. Hilary Lokwang (Mr)
Hon. Pius Wakabi (Mr)
Hon. Anita Among (Ms)
District Woman MP
Hon. Matia Kasaija (Mr)
Hon. Gyaviira Ssemwanga (Mr)
Hon. Enock Nyongwe
Hon. Paparu Lilian Obare
District Woman MP
Hon. Emely kugonza
Hon. Cuthbert Abigaba
Hon. Mary Begumisa
District Woman MP
Hon. Frank Tumwebaze
Hon. Jackson Kafuuzi
Source: ACFIM data base
At District Local Government level, the unopposed candidates included:
- Adrian Ddungu Wasswa (Mr) – Buvuma District
- Herbert Happy Mayanja (Mr) – Ibanda District
- Moses Batwala (Mr) – Jinja District,
- Felix Mark Lochaale (Mr) Karenga District,
- Rutetebya Mukago (Mr) – Kiruhura District
- Asirafu Mambu (Mr) – Koboko Distrist
- Sylvester Agubanshongorera (Mr) – Rubirizi District
The increase in numbers of uncompetitive constituencies likely lessens the degree to which legislators and District Chairpersons are held accountable for their actions in political office. Experience from mature democracies indicates that after highly contested races with uncertain outcomes, politicians are more responsive to voters and work harder to fulfill campaign promises.
In a country where politics is highly commercialized to the extent that money is the major motivation for political participation, every political participant has a price.
In Buyanja County Constituency, for instance, Kibaale district, the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Hon. Matia Kasaija faced Paul Kyalimpa, a strong challenger who he won with a slim margin amidst allegations of blatant voter bribery, intimidation, and threats towards his opponents. Whereas the minister won the party flag, Kyalimpa decided to contest against him in the national elections and was duly nominated by the Electoral Commission.
This changed after a meeting between Hon Kasaija, Mr. Kyalimpa, and President Museveni in Gulu where they allegedly resolved that Mr. Kyalimpa withdraws from the race and leaves Hon Kasaija unopposed. The resolution reportedly made serious concessions that included fulfilling the 2016 promise of UGX 100 million when he pulled out of the race to leave Hon Kasaija sail through, and secondly, find a job for Mr. Kyalimpa.
Towards the end of the campaign period, it transpired publicly that Kyalimpa – the sole opponent of minister Kasaija, had been appointed as the Deputy Executive Director of the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), an agency directly under the supervision of Kasaija in his capacity as the minister of Finance and Economic Planning.
Subsequent to his alleged appointment, Kyalimpa withdrew from the race leaving the finance minister unopposed as the candidate for Buyanja County constituency. This is a manifestation of how the NRM party has used money, positions, and in some cases underhand methods to entice candidates out of the race to allow its flag bearers to go through unopposed.
What happened in Buyanja County is just one of the few scenarios of how unopposed candidates across the country procured their positions. One can safely argue that if money is removed from the equation, it is unlikely these candidates would still have run unopposed.