KAMPALA – There is dissimilarity in the ideological orientations on whether Uganda and Africa deserve a participatory democracy without elections or just an elective democracy that may or may not usher society into a meaningful participatory democracy. It abides to logic that good democratic elective process coauthors, with several other elements, a meaningful participatory democracy.
In this regard, how participatory and inclusive the elective democracy is, not only determines how the citizens participate in the politics but also gives them mandate to decide or to select who decides on their behalf in the economic and social structures of the nation.
In Africa more so in Uganda, where trust vested in systems coated with the potential assurances of egalitarianism in all echelons of elected leadership is paramount, a meaningful participatory democracy is not only an unrealistic dream but also a bad one if it is pursued in the absence of a proper free and fair elective democracy that includes all people and special interest groups such as the youths.
Young people below the age of 35 years comprise 78 % of the national population. Of the 35 million people in 2016, 15 million were of voting age which represented 43.3 % of the entire population. Of this voting age, the voters from the 18 to 35 years of age comprised approximately 60 % of the voters.
The youthful population composition presents opportunities for youths and, though quite unfortunate, for adults who have mastered the art of manipulating the youths. Unfortunately, it presents challenges, that should be of interest to policymakers, for the youths and the responsibility on the part of the government in an elective democracy but more so in the meaningful participatory democracy. One of the challenges is that if the young people are excluded or manipulated, then the leadership is disassembling over 70% of the population and 60% of the voters from the decision and policy formulation apparatus and service delivery channels.
Since a good elective democracy is a chief author of a meaningful participatory democracy especially for the young people as proven above, I will show how elections, affected by voter bribery especially of young voters and high-end commercialization, are not free and fair and how the post-election time excludes youth from governance and creates an arena of greed, manipulative politics and clientelism in the society whose affairs are decided on by those in power and those that placed them in power through campaign fundraising. This does not favour the youths who neither have the power nor the capacity to place others in power through financing. The vice of too much money being used in electoral campaign is spinning out of control every passing electoral period.
In a capitalistic economy and those with devastating economic gaps in which money influences electoral choice and where wealth is vested in the hands of the old, the youths are excluded and manipulated. The exclusion of the youths is in the inability of poor young political candidates to win the support of electorate that is bribed by the old rich contestants to make a choice.
If the national leadership composition by the young does not tally with the voter composition by the young, it parades deficiencies in representation and participation of and by young people which has a direct relationship to youths’ interests being underserved, dissatisfaction, retaliation and general underdevelopment.
More, unfortunately, a monetized electoral process not only causes unfairness in elective and participatory democracies but also robs the youths of the possibilities of freedom in making electoral choices. If almost all young voters are bribed and bought off, it means that most of the voters are bribed to vote against their will since the young voters comprise approximately 60 % of the voters.
Electoral commercialization, and the fundraising that consumes most of the time of elected leaders, produces that “democracy” that is largely responsive to funders.
Actual decisions of government relate to the economic elite, the views of the interest groups and those of the average voter. The preferences of the average voter group, where the young people belong, appear to have only a miniscule or near zero statistically non Signiant impact upon public policy in a democracy. This is because money from the rich to finance elections makes the politicians hostage, creates a council of guardians and a tea party economy and creates a situation that to run you must be acceptable to the people that provide the money. This creates a situation of politicians picking whose voter’s interests should be served but not voters choosing for the politicians the interests to be prioritised since in the first place the voters didn’t choose the politician but money did which creates two classes of people that owe and of those that are owed and shrinks the space for a dialogue that would have narrowed the gap between the two classes.
Attaching a lot of value to what money can do for a politician does much in breeding corruption and unrivaled love for money and turns elected leaders into dealers and self-seeking lobbyists. This does no good to the young people that were bribed to vote the leaders and authors a non-participatory regime.
Even in the face of disparities amongst youths that have created first, second and thirds classes of youths aided by the know who syndrome that elongates cross-generational spirals of either poverty or wealth, it is important that a general inclusion of all youths is considered. Good electoral democracy, that creates a voice and platform for their interests, gives youths the power to achieve inclusion and makes them custodians of sustainable development.
The writer, Kansiime Onesmus is an economist and Team Leader at Writer’s Hub 256