CASE FOR POLITICAL PARTY FUNDING FOR VOTER EDUCATION IN UGANDA
Political parties should receive funding for voter education
The race to the 2011 elections has brought with it new challenges. The
Electoral commission, its credibility problems notwithstanding, has
announced a new voter registration method, the biometric registration,
which is expected to run for one month. It is intended to exclude the
previously registered voters, to focus on new voters who turned to
voting age after the 2006 elections and others who had not registered
before. This is not feasible, given the fact that so far, only 2000 of
the expected 4000 workstations are in the country. Add to this the
daunting task of recruiting and retaining of at least 8,000 personnel
to man the operate the system, at each workstation. While a possible
extension of the voter registration dates is anticipated, it may cause
serious constitutional problems. Nominations must begin in October
2010. The Presidential and parliamentary election must be held not
later than February 2011.
Now, more than ever, the political parties must aggressively play
their role of civic and voter education. Unfortunately, owing to the
banning of political party activity under the movement system between
1986- 2005, political parties were severely weakened and a democratic
culture was suspended. Even after the return to multiparty politics,
political parties do not receive funding from government. They remain
voluntarily financially supported by their members. It is not
possible for political parties to invest adequately on civic and voter
education, nor to train enough party workers to conduct voter
Voter education in Uganda has been left to the so called civil
society, which is perceived to be apolitical. This is erroneous. It is
not true that civil society must be apolitical. In fact in many
democracies, there are civil society groups that are directly
affiliated to political parties. A good example is COSATU of South
Africa. But that is not the point. The crux of the matter is that
political parties have the primary interest in having voters
registered and a high voter turn in any election. By default every
registered political party should become an accredited voter education
provider, if voter education penetration is to improve in the next few
The time has come for the donor community that has interest in voter
education to provide funds to political parties to conduct voter
education to supplement the efforts of the traditional providers and
the Electoral Commission. Unless this is done the chances for a free
and fair election will be terribly reduced.
Whenever a case for a free and fair election is made, people ask: What
is a free and fair election? A free and fair election is a universal
aspiration. It should reflect the 10 benchmarks for free and fair
elections of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU, adopted in 1994.
These benchmarks are: Security and Freedom of candidates and their
supporters. .Non discriminatory suffrage. Fair demarcation of
constituencies. Verifiable, complete and accurate list of voters.
Independent and impartial electoral commission and polling officials.
Voter education. Protection of minorities. Electoral campaigns in
which authorities respect and ensure freedom of movement of candidates
and their supporters. Freedom of assembly and association.
Unrestricted media access. Equal security to all political parties,
candidates and supporters. Prevention of fraud and illegality in the
entire campaign period. Balloting, monitoring and announcement of
results which is timely, accurate and transparent. A mechanism for
complaints and dispute resolution.
The other benchmarks are found in the international Covenant on civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and
People's Rights (ACHPR) to which Uganda is signatory. Article 2 of the
ACHPR states, among other things, that in free and fair elections, no
individual should suffer from disenfranchisement or exclusion from
voting on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinions, national, social origin, property, birth
or other social status..
As regards the ACHPR, it stresses five principles upon which
democratic free and fair elections should be conducted. These are:
Establishment of impartial, competent and accountable electoral
institutions. Adherence to the principles of separation of powers,
i.e. non interference of the state or security organisations in
elections. Strict compliance with all electoral laws. Participation
of political parties at every stage in the electoral process.
Prevention of fraud, rigging or any other illegal practices throughout
the electoral process.