What is the role of a member of parliament (MP) in Uganda that Ugandans are okay with the huge costs involved in electing and maintaining one? Particularly so if you consider the most recent current unpopular legislation that MPs have occasioned and in some cases in clear defiance of their respective electorates.
Recent events indicate that election of new MPs in Uganda is further strengthening the ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM), in parliament. The dynamics in parliament are seemingly not changed by new entrants, both in terms of numeric strength and in ideological persuasion. Read more about the dynamics of Uganda’s parliament here.
Take for instance the most recent parliamentary elections, particularly the ones of Bugiri Municipality and Arua Municipality. Whereas, opposition politicians won the seats in both constituencies, they did so with narrow margins and with the NRM candidates closely coming second in both constituencies.
If you contextualize the recent opposition wins in urban constituencies within the popular belief that the opposition, particularly so the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), are strong in urban areas, then the narrow margin wins of the opposition are concerning. How is it and why is it that the opposition does not get landslide victories in their strong holds, the urban constituencies, even in this environment of unpopular NRM legislation?
Hon. Asuman Basalirwa, Party President of Justice Forum JEEMA, won the Bugiri seat getting 48 percent of the valid votes cast; and Hon. Kassiano Wadri, a FDC leaning Independent, won the Arua seat by getting 38 percent of the valid votes that were cast; meaning that both did not win over 50 percent of the voters who voted.
The voter turnout in Bugiri was about 50 percent of the registered voters and in Arua it was about 42 percent of registered voters. In essence, it means, therefore, that Hon. Basalirwa has a clear mandate from only 24 percent of the registered voters of Bugiri; while Hon. Wadri has a clear mandate from only 16 percent of the registered voters of Arua.
It is valid, in fact, to surmise that in Bugiri and in Arua, the NRM did not lose its voter base, but rather it is the Dr. Kiiza Besigye faction of FDC that lost its voter base. Read more here about which political party is getting stronger in Uganda.
During the campaigns in both Bugiri and Arua, moreover, the more pointed verbal artillery was exchanged among and between opposition political parties and among and between opposition candidates; revealing huge rifts within each opposition party and among opposition parties as a whole.
How does one expect that the huge rifts in and among opposition parties do not transfer to the business of parliament? Where then is the value for money? How then can the opposition claim to be an alternative voice of the people that is positioned to take over leadership of the country and to govern within genuine democratic principles?
While 71 percent of the nation’s budget for fighting the tuberculosis epidemic in the country, albeit it being silent one, the time and resources that Uganda is investing in parliamentary campaigns and in elections is huge. How does this make sense?
It is time that we re-think Uganda’s bastardized version of the Westminster governance model.