In talk shows on radio there is talk about voter bribery already going on in Luweero. This is reported to be by the NRM Camp. It is sad, but expected.
In Money Matters: Financing Illiberal Democracy in Uganda, Julius Kiiza (PhD) writes as below:
“In present-day Uganda, political finance has played an important role in inducing voter preferences, thanks to the obscenely high degree of financialization of elections. DEMGroup (2011), for example, decries the ‘pervasive vote-buying’ that characterized the 2011 elections. Vote-buying (in the broad sense of using money, material inducements or promises of politicized ‘goods’ such as new districts) took place in the presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. Both the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party (1986 – to-date) and the leading opposition party, that is, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) were involved. Both used more political cash in 2011 than in previous elections. However, the incumbent President and his NRM politicians out-spent the opposition by a huge margin. According to Gatsiounis (2011), candidate Museveni and his NRM party purchased ‘their way to re-election, outspending the opposition – 10-to-1, by some estimates – in what is widely considered the most expensive campaign in Uganda’s history.”
The central hypothesis of this paper is that elections in Uganda have become procedural rituals, not opportunities for establishing government by consent, defined as an elected, capable, and accountable government. This hypothesis is discussed with reference to the financialization of the 2011 elections, and in particular, the role of money in inducing the consent of voters. The information presented herein was collected via critical reviews of secondary literature, ‘grey’ documents, and press reports. These were augmented with primary data which was collected prior to the elections (in December 2010) during elections (in February 2011), and after the elections. Interviews were conducted with key politicians, academics, and ordinary voters in Kampala and Hoima districts. A Focus Group Discussion was also held at Joker’s Club on 11 March 2011.
The evidence gathered suggests that political corruption (on both the demand side and the supply side) is associated with state failure to deliver durable developmental outcomes. The economy has undoubtedly grown at a rapid rate of 7.3 percent between 1992 and 2010. Over the same period, income poverty has declined ‘considerably’ from 56 percent of the population to 24.5 percent (Ssewanyana, 2010). Unfortunately, these rosy socio-economic figures are hardly reflected in ordinary people’s lives. For example, no fundamental socio-economic transformation has taken place. Over 80 percent of Uganda’s 31 million people are still rural-based peasants who are stuck in the Garden of Eden (Kiiza, 2007). Uganda’s ‘rosy’ economic growth has simply by-passed them. Moreover, 85 percent of the youths aged 15 – 35 years are unemployed. These depressing socio-demographics, are in large part, a product of state failure to deliver what Linda Weiss (1998) calls ‘transformative’ developmental outcomes.
State failure has resulted in the erosion of trust in the corruption-ridden political leadership. This has triggered voter apathy. Voters apparently use the election season to demand for deliverables ‘here and now.’ Theirs is a widely held view that ‘elected officials will not reverse the deep-rooted cancer of state failure to deliver’ (Interviews, Hoima District, February 2011).
Thus, the financialization of Uganda’s elections is saddening but not shocking. What is shocking is the metamorphosis of voter bribes and political corruption from shameful forms of unaccountable governance into distinctive ways of holding government officials to account. The corrupt political elites who ‘decentralize’ their fruits of corruption to the electorate are rewarded with electoral victories. Politicians in the opposition and the ruling party who campaign for clean government lose out. Shockingly, Mr. and Mrs Clean politicians who advance issues (such as clean government or quality roads, education and health services) are largely ignored by the poor (who constitute the largest voting bloc for the ruling NRM party). Those that refuse to give voter bribes lose precisely because they are perceived to be ‘mean,’ ‘stingy,’ ‘unaccountable’ or simply ‘hungry’ men and women who are ‘looking for their turn to eat,’ not to serve (Focus Group Participant, Jokers Hotel, Kampala, March 2011).