We are both privileged and unprivileged to live in these interesting times where electoral politics seems to be taking the angle of an elitist pass time for a cabal of a wealthy few.
As at October 2010 when the Electoral Commission opened for nomination of directly elected MP candidates, Uganda had a population of about 34 million people with 50% of this population being above 18 years. Mathematically, this means that well about 17 or so million citizens qualified by age as potential candidates to run for elective offices.
However, out of such an enormous figure, only about 1,700 individuals offered themselves to run for the available 380 parliamentary seats. This represents only 0.01% of the potential candidates and about 0.001% of the total population.
Various reasons may have contributed to this glut. According to a friend who ran for an MP position in the Western region, one requires about three hundred million shillings to run a descent successful campaign. To many Ugandans, these figures are surreal.
Little wonder therefore that electoral politics has recently been regarded to as a game the rich play with poor people’s minds and money. During the Kampala mayoral race, one of the candidates confessed on radio how she had spent three hundred million shillings daily for all her campaign period. Whether this was a slip of the tongue or not, it left many impoverished listeners with a sense of deep confusion and despair. Due to such occurrences, the threshold of a good leader still remains widely contested; are they those who have a lot of wealth or good character? Is leadership about content or appearances? If indeed democracy runs on financial might alone, then it is a hoax and if this hoax reduces large swathes of citizens to electoral voyeurs, then it is definitely a fraud.
Against this background one would have the audacity to ask, whether crude capitalism hijacked the essence of electoral democracy leaving money the master over moral; conscience and virtue. How then do we as a nation move on with deeper humanistic convictions; principles and values? Strong structures world over have not been constructed by money but by conscience. Money and its value must be made to remain an enabler and not the core.
Very interestingly though, it’s all not lost, in previous elections, we have seen some out of the ordinary scenarios where the marginalized have competed with the wealthy and the marginalized persons have won. Parliament as it is today is over 60% youth which indicates a clear investment in future leadership. The question that arises is therefore one of quality not wealth or age bracket. The activism and vibrancy in parliament seems to be youth driven. Probably this silver lining dispels the growing adage that electoral politics is a game of those who are ready to invest in colossal sums. This further reinforces the fact that it is more to do with content, beliefs and conviction.
The duty is on us to repossess our country’s political glory. The challenge calls for daring actions to re-humanize our politics. Electoral politics should not be about demarcation, exclusivity, classification and conspiracy but should be something that fosters inclusivity, transparency, accountability and respectful.