Kampala, Uganda |THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandans seeking to win Parliamentary seats in the 2021 general elections will have to spend between 500 million to 1 billion Shillings, a new report has estimated.
Published on Tuesday in Kampala by the Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM), an NGO that focuses on addressing commercialization of politics and elections and advocating for campaign financing reforms, the report indicates that incumbents are using money as a tool to undo the challenge brought by new competitors.
At the local government level, the report says, the district chairperson is expected to spend between 300 million to 500 million Shillings. These figures represent a growing appetite to spend more and more to win political office in Uganda. Losing can be equated to suicide after spending all this money.
High expectations for money among the electorates was cited among reasons that have contributed to the rising cost of an election. Former candidates interviewed for the study said they found it easier to campaign using money.
“The figures are exclusive of what candidates will spend on party primaries which in constituencies where the ruling NRM party is dominant, are equally or even more costly,” said the report titled Unregulated Campaign Spending and its impact on Electoral Participants in Uganda.
The report, compiled with support from the Democratic Governance Facility, deepens the debate on the commercialization of election and politics in Uganda. Previous studies have shown that political parties spend in hundreds of billions of Shillings to entice voters on their side. The impact also noted in the latest report, is that as money is spent in the electoral process, it has come at the expense of the service delivery.
“The downside is that at the end of the election, we have leaders who are economically bruised, trapped in debt, and vulnerable to all forms of the temptations to use all means to recoup their money,” it said.
The report noted that confronted with hefty demands from electorates, including school fees, money, medical treatment, many elected leaders are sneaking into their own houses later in the night and leave early in the morning to hide away from voters.
The lead researcher Eddie Kayinda said they found that some leaders, including Members of Parliament (MPs), had become internally displaced in their homes and constituents as they keep away from demanding electorates.
Kayinda said they found that candidates raised the money via bank loans, sale of personal property, and contributions from private businesses and businessmen.
At least 79 per cent of the people interviewed for the study said they think money influences the outcomes of the electoral process.
Reacting to the report, the Alice Alaso, the national coordinator of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), said because the government has failed to deliver basic services to the citizens and improve incomes, that MPs and other leaders are seen as government and have to foot bills for their basic needs.
The study was conducted in six districts of Arua, Iganga, Hoima, Kamwenge, Mbarara and Kampala. Current and former political leaders from their districts were interviewed for the report.
Dr Simba Sallie, a political science don at Makerere University, said he was not surprised by the findings because we are in a political system where being in politics is more profitable than any other profession.