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Party leaders express mixed views on proposed Election Financing Bill

Deputy Attorney General, Hon. Rukutana Mwesigwa in support of ACFIM, election campaign financing law. PHOTO via @AcfimUg

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A cross section of leaders of political parties and organisations have mixed reactions to provisions in a bill to regulate election campaign financing.

The bill has been drafted by activists led by Alliance for Finance Monitoring – ACFIM and is expected to be moved in parliament by Fort Portal Municipality MP Alex Ruhunda.

The leaders were on Monday reacting to proposed provisions in the Election Campaign Financing Bill, 2017 during a meeting held by ACFIM with the National Consultative Forum.

The Forum is composed of representatives from all the currently 29 registered parties and organisations. The forum provided for in the 1995 Uganda Constitution and the Political Parties and Organisations Act, 2005  is expected to promote peaceful co-existence through mediation, dialogue and conflict resolution to promote democracy in Uganda.

ACFIM Counsel, Robert Okot presented some of the provisions of the bill, premised on grounds that the current electoral laws and proposed reforms for the Electoral Commission, political parties and organisations, presidential, parliamentary and local governments do not adequately regulate and limit donations to political parties or candidates participating in the process.

He says that the bill thereby, proposes to regulate, manage expenditure and accountability of election campaign funds during elections, to restrict contributions and expenditures, to require campaign financial statements and reports. The bill also seeks to regulate acceptance of certain gifts, payments and reimbursements and to regulate anonymous contributions.

Okot however says that the regulation will only work if there is will to implement the law along side other measures to sanitize elections.

The bill is based on previous findings on monies candidates spent during the electoral cycle, especially MPs. For instance, ACFIM’s survey showed that 113 of 185 MPs interviewed spent over a total of shillings 25 billion in 2016.

ACFIM  has also predicted that contestants for parliamentary seats in 2021 could spend up to shillings 48 billion, double the amount spent in 2016.

Now, leaders led by the deputy attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana  had mixed reactions on the bill. Rukutana, who also represented the Prime Minister-Dr.Ruhakana Rugunda as the Forum chairperson, noted that there is need to regulate campaign financing and that his office will offer the necessary support to the movers of the bill and ensure that it is brought to parliament.

However, Rukutana says that it will still be difficult to deter ” conspiring candidates and the demanding voting population” and that the best solution is  to empower voters by eliminating poverty among other measures to curb commercialization of politics.

Secretary General of the Democratic Party-Dr.Gerald Siranda also urged fellow leaders to support the bill by suggesting ways to improve the bill.

Siranda’s remarks stemmed from views of some of the leaders led by the Secretary General of Peoples Development Party, Carol Atugonza, who said that the bill favours the ruling party-National Resistance Movement Organisation – NRMO.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Social Democrats Party, Henry Lubowa, Chairman General of the Congress Service Volunteers Organisation -COSEVO, Zakaria Bisase  and stella Nambuya , Secretary General of the Republican Women and Youth Party  agree that the bill needs to be improved so that it among others provide for equal funding for all political parties and organisations.

Nambuya says the bill should not favour “buffaloes” and squeeze the “squirrels” involved in elections.

ACFIM Executive Director, Henry Muguzi says that the mixed reactions from the leaders indicate that there is need to engage them more on the need for election financing regulation.

The meeting has now resolved that ACFIM  should write to the Secretary Generals for the parties and organisations  and also hold a meeting in a month after NCF members have consulted their party and organisation members on the proposed bill.

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