Members of Parliament and Democracy activists have opposed a proposal by Ajuri County MP Denis Hamson Obua to increase nomination fees paid by any contesting candidate to the Electoral Commission (EC).
Obua made the proposal when the Electoral Commission was submitting its budget estimates to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Obua argued that with very low academic qualifications of senior six or its equivalent; very many people unnecessarily enter the contest increasing the burden on the electoral process. This results in a wastage of resources as they drop out of the race soon enough.
Not all of Obua’s colleagues in Parliament support his proposal that Democracy should be priced so highly. Obua proposes that any aspiring candidate pays a nomination fee of two million shillings. Currently a candidate for a Member of Parliament slot pays 200, 000 shillings to register to contest.
Western Region youth MP Gerald Karuhanga says that Obua’s proposal is discriminative and will leave leadership to only the rich who are not necessarily the best in society.
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Karuhanga says that it is ill advised to make governance of the country depend on the financial status of the players saying that Ugandan leadership will be left to people who do not represent the interests of the majority.
Karuhanga notes that the cost of campaigns is already too high and has kept a good number of Ugandans out of politics so there is no need for further limitation.
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Eastern youth MP Peter Ogwang also says the proposal is a technical knockout of the poor who are the majority from leadership. He cites the example of youth representation saying that most Ugandan youth cannot raise two million shillings.
Ogwang says that the final choice of who leads them should be left to the judgment of the voters. He wonders why Obua talks about wastage of resources yet the cost of running any election is embedded in the national budget to which every citizen contributes in form of taxes.
The Project Communications Manager at the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, Gwada Okot says that Democracy should not be put on sale. He argues that it is already impossible for most Ugandans to contest because of lack of nomination fees and that it will be worse if the fee is increased.
He adds that even the existing fee should be scrapped so that all willing Ugandans can fairly seek election.
But the Acting Director of Dem group John Mary Odoi does not think the element of money is important. He believes academic qualification should count for more along with an age limit because Parliament or any other position for that matter needs level headed fairly intelligent mature people.
He believes that it is because so many young people fresh out of secondary school have attained important positions too quickly that they act rashly.
He agrees with Obua that the influx of candidates needs to be controlled but said that tagging a high price on nomination poses a danger of missing out on possible good leaders. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission Badru Kiggundu welcomed Obua’s proposal and said that if other concerned parties endorse it, the fee will be raised.