Monday, June 2, 2014


This week electoral reforms were in the news.

The civil society have long argued that there needs to be a total overhaul of the Electoral Commission, that for instance it should not be constituted by the executive but come through consultations with all the political forces in the country. They of course advocate for a return to presidential term limits.

President Yoweri Museveni argued this week that a more robust electoral process that would include an electronic voting would do away with the worst excesses of rigging that cost the NRM candidate victory in the recently concluded Luwero Woman MP position. Of course the opposition did not complain of any electoral malpractice after they were declared victorious.

I think these will be cosmetic changes which may improve the voting process but not fix what is essentially problematic with our democratic process.

The main problem of our politics is the way we elect our leaders. We have adopted stock-lock-and-barrel a system whose historical development does not mirror our own.

Parliamentary democracy arose as a counterweight to the monarchy in Europe. The people who pushed for parliamentary representation were the emerging class of industrialists and land owners who felt they needed to push their interests with the crown but were shut out of the royal court. So they set about designing an alternative power center, negotiating where they could with the realm but also loping off the monarch’s heads if the need arose.

So it came to be that elected members, who were initially only voted for by male, tax payers, represented industrialists, businessmen and professionals seeking to leverage the state to advance their interests.

Geographical location of constituencies was just to make sure that the interest groups had a national character but was not initially intended to have token representation from all over the country.

Fast forward to the present day.  In the case of Uganda we have a parliament all 388-strong, who are elected on rather dubious grounds that reflect no sustainable and cross cutting interests. Maybe the 112 women district representatives or the 10 UPDF or the five youth, disabilities or worker representatives would be a good start.

Out of political pragmatism we could have some regional representation of these interest groups just like we already do for the youth and people with disabilities.

Straight off the bat we would cut down the size of parliament and the cattle herders from Karamoja will be as well served by their regional representative as that one from western Uganda who is urging government to commit more funds to valley dams or research into rinderpest.

Of course such a proposal will not see the light of day – you cannot ask the monkeys to vote on the fate of the forest, but if we are going to have political discussions on issues this would be one way of speeding up the process.

Even if the subsistence farmer party wins several elections in a row in batting for their own interests one can expect that with time the quality of the farmers will improve and some will graduate to the commercial farmers party reducing the size of their former party with time.

To illustrate how impractical our current system is, there is an MP who graduated from campus on 20 years ago, he has been in parliament ever since. This MP has not done an honest day’s work in his life. He does not represent the workers as he does not know what it means to be a worker. He does not represent the traders as all his endeavours have floundered badly and some are still surviving, only because they are subsisting on his huge paycheck. This former OB of mine has no real life experience in the productive sectors of this country. Who is he representing?

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