As the campaign for the much coveted East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) seats heats up, votes in Parliament are up to the highest bidder with legislators demanding cash and other inducements in exchange for their vote.
For the last two weeks, voter crowds and attention have been shifting to only candidates who have money to buy dinner, offer transport refund and or dish out mobilisation fees.
The matter is so serious that it reached the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), the biggest party in the national assembly.
During the CEC meeting last Friday, the NRM Electoral Commission chairman, Tanga Odoi, passed a warning.
“The Chairman of Electoral Commission said he had heard that money is exchanging hands and that if they get evidence they will disqualify the culprits.
If the MPs choose merit, we will be there,” said Mr Emmanuel Dombo, former MP in the last Parliament of Uganda who is now aspiring for a seat in the regional assembly.
He, however, said he had not been approached for money by anyone.
“I have not met MPs in a group. I am meeting them one by one and nobody has asked for money from me. Maybe they fear me because of my seniority in Parliament,” Mr Dombo said.
Several other candidates Daily Monitor approached revealed, albeit off record, that the campaign for Eala seats have been turned into a commercial venture by party members who also are members of the 10th Parliament.
To be an eligible voter within your party to vote a candidate for Eala, you must also be a Member of Parliament.
“The votes are going to the highest bidder,” one distraught candidate said in a telephone interview yesterday, but refused to be named. “Some (MPs) name their price and others wait for you to give,” the candidate added.
The candidate said MPs are demanding between Shs300,000 and Shs1m.
“The ceiling was started by those who started giving out money. My morale is very low. I may not manage because I do not have all the money to give out. We discussed it even with the [NRM] Electoral Commission. It is difficult to control. It is willing giver, willing receiver. People will tell you directly that they can’t give you their vote just like that. You must pay for it,” the candidate said.
Ms Mary Mugyenyi, one of the aspirants on the NRM party ticket, said: “It’s happening and it’s sad that MPs are asking for bribes or accepting to be bribed.”
Last Friday, the NRM CEC meeting approved all the party’s 43 candidates to campaign for Eala seats.
From those, the NRM caucus tomorrow will select members. They will be joined by candidates nominated from other political parties and groups and present their candidature to Parliament for campaigns and eventual election.
There are nine seats allotted to Uganda for Eala. The NRM party has six of the nine slots and the three will be shared out by the various political parties and interest groups in Parliament.
The other parties have also nominated their own candidates to contest for the three seats.