The generally accepted meaning of democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. At the national level, it means a government which has been elected in a general election through universal adult suffrage.
Article 1 of the Constitution vests sovereignty and power in the people who shall be governed through their will and consent exercised in regular, free and fair elections.
Most people equate elections with democracy. Of course an election is an important element of democracy, but there can be an election without necessarilly democracy. Even dictators in a one-party state are known to hold elections regularly to renew their dictatorship.
In order for elections to be democratic, certain conditions must exist among which are freedom, fairness, peace, transparency, equality, just electoral laws and luck of intimidation.
The institution incharge of organising and managing the election must be composed of people independently appointed after wide consultations with stakeholders.
Article 60 (2) of the Constitution provides that members of the Electoral Commission shall be persons of high moral character, proven integrity and who possess considerable experience and demonstrate competence in the conduct of public affairs. The current Electoral Commission headed by Mr Badru Kiggundu appointed by President Museveni lacks credibility and has been rejected by all parties except NRM.
The best way of forming government is through political parties. By parties we mean an organised group of people with a manifesto or agenda which they sell to the people and as a result of which people vote for them to rule them for a given period of time.
It is also important that parties must have internal democracy which means that people who lead parties must be elected democratically within their parties.
Articles 71 of the Constitution provides that, “the internal organisation of a political party shall conform to democratic principles enshrined in this constitution.” The democratic principles enshrined include, that: – (a) all political parties and civic associations aspiring to manage and direct public affairs shall conform to democratic principles in their internal organisation and practice.
In Uganda today, all parties are having problems of internal democracy. UPC is split between Jimmy Akena and Olara Otunnu, DP between Norbert Mao and Erias Lukwago, FDC between Mugisha Muntu and Kizza Besigye and NRM between President Museveni and Amama Mbabazi.
It should be realised that because parties are organisations that aspire to acquire power, form government and manage a state, problems within the parties can cause problems within the state. In Uganda, we know that problems within UPC in 1964, 1966 led to the 1971 coup as well as another coup in 1985.
Lack of internal democracy causes divisions not only within the party but the country as a whole. Historically, lack of internal democracy within parties has split parties and sometimes even led to its death.
A case in point is the Uganda National Congress which was the first political party in Uganda.
Political parties are public institutions, organised for the purpose of acquiring state power to govern the nation for the public good.
What happens is political parties are not for members alone because when a party captures power, it governs the entire country. And when that party messes or it is overthrown twice like UPC the whole country suffers.
When political parties are democratic and stable, so will the country. Therefore, the culture of free and fair elections must be entrenched within the party. A party that cannot have internal democracy cannot lead the country democratically because you cannot give what you do not have.
Internal democracy within political parties and organisations is an important requisite for national democracy, stability and development.
Mr Atubo is a lawyer and retired politician