Kampala- Ugandans will continue to lose out on competent political leaders unless commercialisation of politics is stopped, a study shows.
The study done by Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) shows that the increasing heavy spending on political campaigns has not only created distortions on the constitutional mandate of elected leaders but has also hindered service delivery to the taxpayer.
Mr Henry Muguzi, the executive director of ACFIM, indicated in the report that commercialisation of politics “discourages many qualified potential candidates from running in elections and many who try to run lose a lot of money and end up in financial trouble.”
“For the wider political system, it excludes otherwise capable, experienced and knowledgeable people who, owing to lack of resources, will refrain from standing for election and ultimately making a contribution,” he added.
Mr Muguzi was presenting the report findings at a dialogue in Kampala yesterday. The dialogue, jointly organised by the West Minster Foundation for Democracy and the Netherlands Institute for Democracy, attracted participants from the academia, political parties and the civil society.
The ACFIM study, which focused on the cost of political financing at parliamentary level, revealed that one requires a minimum of Shs500m to win an election.
Mr Muguzi said this implies that the political playing field is increasingly falling into the hands of the rich who can sustain the campaign.
“We looked at the life of a political leader, especially at parliamentary level; they are always on the run from their voters and from money lenders or banks that are hunting them to attach their properties,” he said.
This kind of desperation has opened the way for the executive to manipulate Parliament given that indebted MPs have to strive for bail-outs, Mr Muguzi added.
Another study conducted by Dr Fred Golooba Mutebi, an independent researcher, revealed that “in many cases, the amount of money you invest before and during campaigns and in between elections is far more important in determining whether or not you win than your personal attributes.”
As a result, Dr Golooba argued, after winning the heavily financed election, politicians do not feel the responsibility to serve their mandate. Instead, he said, they use their stay in office for survival and amassing more wealth that they would later use in the next campaign.
Both researchers attributed the growing commercialisation of politics to the absence of a clear ideological orientation by all political parties.
“Parties are not grounded in ideologies on which candidates can ride; every candidate crafts their own campaign messages or simply throw money around,” Dr Golooba said.
“You find MPs of a certain party going to retreat for a training on party ideology; so what is the ideology upon which they stood on party ticket if you have an ideology?” Dr Golooba said.
The other driver for commercialisation of politics identified by the study is failure by parties to deliver on their promises and as a result, the citizenry resort to forcing politicians give them “something” before rising to public offices.
According to findings by the African Centre for Media Excellence, more than Shs400 billion was spent by parties in the 2016 General Election.
The ruling party (NRM) led with Shs333.36b followed by Independent candidates (Shs77.46b), FDC (Shs2.04b), Go Forward (Shs8.21b) while other players spent Shs2.25b.