KAMPALA: Political parties play a significant role in making democracy effective. The role they play is by offering a unique opportunity for citizens/electorate to participate in political and electoral processes. To achieve this, political parties need money to among other things mobilise citizens, popularize their agenda and to participate in election campaigns. Funding of political parties and electoral campaigns plays an important role in the functioning of democracy.
During election campaigns political parties spend massively on among other activities, organising delegates’ conferences, party primary elections, and making campaign finance contributions to their flag-bearing candidates at presidential and/or parliamentary level, in electoral colleges and at different levels in Local Government elections. In a country where electoral politics is commercialised, financing these activities and fulfilling the responsibilities including coordination is not only costly but takes a huge toll on party coffers.
It is imperative to note that political parties in Uganda are weak in part because they lack financial resources and in part because they are poorly governed and managed on personalities. None of the political parties in Uganda has the wherewithal to sustain the popularization of the party’s political philosophy, mobilise members on a continual basis and maintain party organs at the grass root level. There is no political party represented in Parliament – including the party in power has a functioning office in the districts. The offices are usually closed before the end of election year and relocated perhaps to homes of party chairpersons in different districts.
At the root of this closure is the lack of funds to pay rent and stipend of an office attendant. Relocating party offices to homes of party chairpersons where they would stay put until the next election, epitomizes the weakness of political parties in Uganda. Without functional grass root structures, political parties lack the locus on the ground. In the past two electoral cycles opposition political parties have failed to field candidates in more than half of the districts of Uganda.
There is a purported that the ruling NRM Party is misusing village administrative structures headed by the Local Council (LC 1) chairperson to also serve as party structures. Whereas political parties represented in Parliament benefit from public financing, the distribution formula is based on numerical strength and amounts received are not enough to run party structures in all the 146 districts of Uganda.
The NRM takes 80% of funds appropriated in the national budget as public financing for political parties. In addition, the party attracts campaign contributions from private companies and corporations which adds on its resource envelop. This positions NRM as the most resourced political party in Uganda.
We advocate for increase and consistency in public funding of political parties in respect of elections and day to day activities. Believe that Public political party financing is essential framework for nurturing political parties as fundamental element block in sustainable and functioning of multiparty politics. It strengthens the independence of parties, fair competition and the levelled political playing field.
Gerald Koraneza is Political Finance Activist at Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM)