The 2013 National Governance Baseline Survey by Uganda Bureau of Statistics says Members of Parliament are guiltier of bribing voters than presidential candidates. And the MPs have recognised the folly of it. One by one, several have jumped onto the bandwagon of realisation of the risks involved.
First, it was Kigulu North MP Edward Baliddawa who said he would quit active politics and not seek re-election in 2016 because his voters were unappreciative of his immense sacrifices. Then mid-June, Aruu County MP Odonga Otto said he and 26 Opposition MPs would not run again because of the huge pressure of public expectations bearing on them. Now, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire says voters have turned MPs into sources of income and solutions to all their problems.
Surely, MPs across the political divide should not suffer the burden of voter bribery to keep their seats. However, they are also to blame as they have drawn upon themselves these non-policy burdens. Invariably, MPs have become wheeler-dealers who promise voters heaven on earth.
Nevertheless, this cancer of vote buying by MPs must stop because it is wrong. First, it sabotages citizens’ inalienable rights to active participation at all levels in their own governance. Second, it deprives the country of quality leaders who get locked out because they cannot finance voters’ demands. Third, this yields more problems since contestants who are unable to raise enough money will resort to alternatives like violence.
For this, Ugandans must restore to Parliament its agenda setting role, namely to consider, refine, amend, and vote on Bills as set out in Article 79(1) of the 1995 Constitution. This Article clearly spells out the role of MPs as “to make laws on any matter for the peace, order, development, and good governance of Uganda”. So our MPs cannot become a Jack of all trades and legislate as well as become backup men for material, medical, legal, and marriage problems.
So efforts by MPs Simon Mulongo (NRM) and Sam Otada (Independent) and the National Democratic Institute to mobilise MPs to push this agenda is essential. And it is all-important that MPs as the vanguard of promoting a just, free and democratic Uganda, endorse this bipartisan agenda by MPs Mulongo and Otada. Therefore, Parliament should press for laws to stop and punish offenders who use money in electoral processes.
Parliament must empower candidates to begin seeking votes on the basis of addressing policies that enable provision of basic needs as roads, power, and water. Let the MPs concentrate on legislation and leave the Executive to provide basic services to voters.
Let us end vote buying lest our MPs remain entrapped.
Support the move to stop and punish use of money in elections.