A ray of Hope for Campaign Finance Legislation in the 11th Parliament.
Interest seems to be growing within pockets of legislators in the 11th Parliament of Uganda on the need to legislate on Campaign financing because the expensive nature of elections campaigns in Uganda continues to further make it expensive for political leaders to stay in office. These leaders are inundated with monetary demands from voters as soon as they assume political office throughout the 5-year tenure. Ceaseless monetary demands from voters to solve personal problems have not only kept elected leaders away but also lead them into temptation.
On November 15, 2022, Hon. Asiimwe Enos, Member of Parliament for Kabula County, Lyantonde District in Central Uganda, while making a submission on the floor of Parliament urged government to bring improvements on election laws specifically on election campaign financing because it is one of the biggest challenges that continue to affect the integrity of Uganda’s electoral process. This was in response to the report on the Committee of Human Rights tabled in parliament for adoption. The report recommended that the Electoral Commission must ensure that polling stations are devoid of any campaign materials including money that can be used for electioneering and buying votes on election day.
The leader of the executive branch of government, President Yoweri Museveni has also on several occasions made pronouncements on the issue of commercialization of politics but no action has yet been taken. For instance, on November 18, 2018, President Museveni through his twitter handle made a tweet saying:
“I urged leaders of the opposition political parties, together with their supporters, to work with the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government to eradicate electoral violence & the monetization of politics to give democracy & stability a chance to flourish in Uganda.”
Since 2011, the Uganda Electoral Commission, international and domestic election observers have been unequivocal about the escalating vice of commercialized and monetized elective politics as a vice that must be remedied to control its corrosive effect on electoral integrity. This vice thrives on the lack of legislation that can help to bring transparency and accountability into election campaign financing.
The Uganda Electoral Commission reports on the past two electoral cycles have also been highlighting commercialization of politics as one of the challenges to Uganda’s electoral integrity. For example, The Electoral Commission report on the 2016 general election submitted to Parliament highlighted commercialization of politics as one of the causes of the electoral related violence. The Electoral Commission report on the 2020/2021 general elections submitted to Parliament under section 14.2 (d) page 83 recommends “government to enact stringent anti-commercialization of election laws/legislations”, as this would help in curbing excess money in elective politics when enforced.
A European Union Observer Mission report of 2016 pointed out that:
“Ugandan legislation does not contain campaign finance provisions to level the playing field – there are no donation limits, no spending caps; and the disproportionate expenditure on behalf of the ruling party and incumbent president distorted the fairness of the campaigns.”
The East African Community Observers report of 2016 highlighted that “the absence of legal requirements for disclosure of campaign income and expenditure makes accountability difficult and promotes negative influence of money in electoral competition”
The Common Wealth Group Observers report of 2016 recommended that government should “enact legislation in accordance with good practices for mandatory public disclosure of campaign income and expenditure. This will help to create a higher level of transparency and accountability; regulations stipulating expenditure ceilings on election campaigns should also be introduced”.
At national level since 2016, ACFIM has been relentlessly advocating for enactment of campaign finance legislation to address the negative effect of money on electoral outcomes in Uganda and by extension its negative effect on electoral integrity. It is the argument of ACFIM that the Uganda Electoral System will only obtain political hygiene if the campaign finance law is in place and effectively enforced. Therefore, it is high time government of Uganda puts in place a comprehensive election campaign finance law that will help cure the problem of commercialization and monetization of elective politics in Uganda.