KAMPALA – One may state with absolute certainty that democracy has broadened, but never with the same iota of certainty that it has deepened in the face of the prism of crumbling and cult faceted electoral democracy that only defines who belongs where with a disequilibrium in the democratization of different spheres of the society and the chocking smell of weak institutions and impaired social relations. These and more bottlenecks explain why youths, despite being dynamic and energetic, are excluded from governance.
This not only presents a challenge to youths that takes away their opportunities, genuine or opportunistic as they may be like any other leaders, but also robs a nation of the benefits she would have reaped from meaningful and genuine youth participation such as sustainable development.
The terrains of the societies that have diverse cultural disorientations, rugged with a natural submission to ancestral lineages of hierarchy and hereditary organisation of power transition, are void of the elements that permit a participatory democracy that is sculpted by-elections. This qualifies that countries without elective democracies may be economically affluent at the expense of individual citizens’ poverty due to the severe deficiency of a participatory recipe in the economy and social structures of the state.
Electoral commercialization, and the fundraising that consumes most of the time of elected leaders, produces that “democracy” that is largely responsive to funders. In situations where the electoral financing comes from multinational companies, the interests of the multinational companies are served. According to figures, every $1 contributed by a multinational company in an electoral process produces $20 that translates into 2000 % profit over the years of a sponsored leadership.
A huge basket of solutions may be presented to end commercialization of political campaigns and to solve a crisis wrought by-election monetisation but in both moderate and worst-case scenarios, one solution is inarguably unprecedented:
The deeper sense of mindset change should suggest that beyond inspiring youths to be politicians, to be voters and to love politics, they should also be taught the uses of democracy, how incorruptible electoral system wrings a meaningful participatory democracy and how, through autonomous electoral decisions, the youth can make this a reality. This entails teaching them the benefits of a free and fair election and how important it is, after elections, to participate in the affairs of society. In this, they learn that they do not have to be conduits, mere campaign managers but contenders.
In addition, steps should be taken to democratize the functioning of political parties. This is because an internal democratic system that subscribes to internal delegate bribery has a huge bearing on causing a monetary ridden general and multi-party electoral system. In this regard, alienating the shoddy argument on intrusion and loss of party autonomy, a law should be passed that regulates both party and national influence of money in elections and for parties to file their tax returns to alleviate possibilities of external monetary influence that serves the interest of the multinationals not the average voters that include the young people.
In addition, it is should be mandatory that every candidate who contests to file an affidavit giving details of his or her property and a maximum threshold of money a political candidate cannot go beyond during an electoral process should be agreed upon and set. This sum should give larger consideration to the capacity of youths to afford it and compete favorably.
Nomination is a critical point in the elective political journey. It is made so difficult if a given hopeful cannot afford the nomination fee. The problems presented by golden capitalism that suggests that he who has the gold makes the rules have evaded the nomination costs. These figures, being exorbitant, unreasonable and unjustified, have curtailed meaningful youth participation in elective democracy and subsequently in their influence in the would-be participatory democracies.
In that regard, in consultation with the youths, a favourable nomination fees should be set for different electoral positions in order to enable the young people participate not only as voters or conduits but as candidates. The nomination fee to contest as Member of Parliament in Uganda is 3 million Ugx approximately $850 which is more than the GDP per capita income $800 as of June 2019. This disparity leaves so many youths excluded since they can neither afford nomination fee even if they saved all they earned the entire year nor can they afford the cost of running an election campaign. Even if they afforded, they cannot afford as much as their old opponents who buy voters. The nomination fee therefore for Member of Parliament should be at most $365 which reflects the minimum someone living above the poverty line should be earning in a year. This takes into account the fact that the majority of the population that largely comprises of youths are either unemployed or underemployed.
The equitable distribution of political participation in all existing democracies cannot be achieved without looking at the concomitant concentration of psychological, economic and social power due to caste, capitalism and patriarchy which the youths own, fortunately, or unfortunately, in insignificant proportions. This change will largely depend on institutional reform.
The youths comprise 78% of the country’s population and a significant proportion of the voting age figures. The incongruity between the youth demographics and their participation reveals the sad truth of even a bigger percentage of people being excluded from decision and policy-making processes of the country. Excluding the largest proportion of the population not only excludes the youths but also causes economic retardation with low levels of economic inclusion and empowerment which curtails efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Realising that monetisation of the elective channels to leadership is a bottleneck to meaningful youth participation, I have suggested that we need mindset change, and stringent legislation that will prohibit the over commercialization of political campaigns that dances to the tunes of capitalistic and patriarchal dispensations.
The writer, Kansiime Onesmus is an economist and team leader at Writers Hub 256