Thursday, January 21, 2016

Uganda: EU to analyse Uganda's elections campaign funding

[By Halima Abdallah] In spite of Uganda's failure to implement a host of technical recommendations made in the last General Election, the European Union election observer team has introduced a new criterion in its mission - ascertaining sources and values of funds that candidates are using in the campaigns.

Though being implemented for the first time, analysis of how political campaigns are financed will be henceforth applied at all observer missions to come. Incidentally, EU's observer report following the 2011 elections took note of the funds available to candidates.

In 2011, the EU mission's report recommended that government embarks on electoral reforms because its electoral democracy fell short of meeting international democratic standards.

During the previous election, financial resources and logistics were available to candidates leaning towards the ruling party to the detriment of the opposition who in the aftermath of the polls that saw inflation surge, suggested punitive measures to civil servants for using public resources during elections and the introduction of campaign spending caps for political parties.

"We are going to get campaign finance data including the names of the largest donors," said Jurij Toplak, election campaign finance analyst of the EU observer mission. However, poor financial accountability practices exhibited by various political parties and a weak enforcement stance adopted by the Uganda's Electoral Commission (EC) seem to pose serious hurdles to collection of campaign finance data conducted by independent groups, analysts say.

"It is not only for Uganda but it will be a general application in the coming missions anywhere," said chief observer Eduard Kukan.

The 2011 report also recommended reforms to the EC, changes to the voter registration system, creation of a new voter register and a good code of conduct which commits all parties to avoid violence during and after election processes.

The opposition's attempts to introduce reforms at the Electoral Commission, which they accuse of being biased towards the ruling party, were thwarted in August 2015 when parliament voted against proposals for the transparent appointment of the EC chair and it commissioners. This was intended to create trust in the EC. The ruling party enjoys a parliamentary majority.

"Greater consensus could be achieved by including opposition and civil society voices in the appointment process as well as the presidency and parliamentary majority," reads the first recommendation of the EU report.


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