The Electoral Commission (EC) this week announced it had released Shs10 billion to facilitate political parties ahead of the 2016 polls. The move resurrects the debate on the amended Political Parties and Organisations Act, 2005.
Uganda’s political parties funding needs a strong constitutional foundation to guarantee the funding system. The law only funds political parties with representation in Parliament, leaving out other parties which actively participate in the democratic processes at all levels, but get no representations in Parliament.
Parties can actively participate at district, municipal and sub-county councils, which councils are critical in service delivery at grassroots.
EC chairman Badru Kiggundu insisted: “The formula of distribution is prescribed in the law it is on the basis of strength in Parliament.” The architects of the law insisted on numerical strength in Parliament to guard against briefcase parties taking aantage of the facility.
However, in his 2011 book titled Reality Check: Political Party Financing in Uganda, veteran politician Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere warned of loopholes in the legal provisions and institutional framework of political party funding in Uganda.
Dr Ssemogerere, a respected two-time presidential candidate and former president of the Democratic Party (DP), stated that it is a “moral obligation for the State in a democracy to empower the citizenry to freely exercise their basic human rights to political expression, association and assembly.”
He pointed out that the framework for public funding is biased in favour of the ruling party, since it receives a disproportionate share of the resources.
The ruling NRM, for example, with 259 MPs in the 386-member House, took more than 80 per cent of the Shs10 billion that the EC released this week, leaving the Opposition parties with 64 MPs to share less than 20 per cent.
Funds should not be given at the discretion of the EC. It should be clearly stipulated in law. Uganda can learn from Tanzania, where a specific percentage of its annual budget (two per cent) is committed to funding political party activities, and there is a body that manages the fund.
The law is also silent on the day-to-day activities to be funded. That is why DP could allude to spending the money on charity towards children’s home, instead of voter sensitisation and strengthening of party structures, which are critical in this electoral year.
It is also important that political parties that benefit from the facilitation heed the aice of Ms Alice Alaso, the FDC secretary general, who called for proper accountability.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor