Monetization of Ugandan Politics - Foundation Office Uganda and South Sudan
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There are multiple factors hindering the development of a fully democratic system. One of the key factors in this regard is the utilization of money during elections and in the overall political process of the country. As early as 1997, the term 'monetization of elections' was coined in the Ugandan context in Makerere University Political Science Lecturer Dr. William Muhumuza's article on the previous and first democratic elections under the new constitution in 1996. He already outlined shortcomings and corruptions of the recently reinstated electoral system, in form of voter bribery through money as well as material goods. Such practices undermine not only the electoral, but at this point in time arguably, the entire democratic process and especially work to the disadvantage of young people struggling to enter and influence politics.
The key areas where there is room for money to unduly influence politics is through campaign and political party financing. Overall impacting on the level of corruption, these entry points into politics seem to create a vicious circle that entrenches corruption in the system. Lack of oversight and transparency leave corrupt individuals the opportunity to offer voter bribes to stay in power, where they will fend off the introduction of better systems. Moreover, voters that experience corrupt politicians not acting in the best interest of their constituencies are disillusioned and more willing to accept bribes for votes, if that is the only benefit they can realistically expect form their vote in the first place. This not only empowers the incumbent politicians that misuse the system but also creates a seemingly insurmountable barrier to young newcomers that do not want to bend to the corrupted system in place. The key question that results from this is how this circle of corrupting politics through money can be broken to allow for new, more democratic and transparent practices to be developed.
Two key constrains to more ideologically-focused politics are firstly the inadequacy of existing disclosure requirements to fully grasp and capture the influence that is exercised by large donations, and secondly the lack of independence of the institutions charged to oversee electoral and political transparency and fairness. However, with the vicious circle of incentives in politics moving further and further away from strengthening and installing those systems, it must be a cause championed by a broad spectrum of the population rather than only few interest groups. One suggested alternative practice to reverse this slide into fully monetized politics is the introduction of party member or general voters contributions to political campaigns to instil a sense of ownership and accountability to the larger population. However, while such suggestions seem to address the issue, they are hard to realize in a context where financial means of the general population are so scarce and education levels are so low, that misleading voter persuasion might take the place of bribery without eradicating the fundamental issue of dis-empowering voters.
The issue is clearly highly complex, but certainly equally pressing, which gives cause to take the debate seriously and engage as many young minds as possible in the development of new solutions. Therefore the planned debate will provide a platform to not only raise awareness of the issue and the need for its timely tackling but also bring together young people from politics, civil society and academia to debate and address the issue collectively in a solution-oriented manner.