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Shocking roles of Uganda’s legislators (Part II)

In the previous edition of The Observer, I argued that the absence of clear and consistent political ideologies and the peripheral importance of candidates’ manifestos imply that the voter-candidate relationship is one of simply “eating.”

Today, I explore the effects that emanate from the continued perception of voters as people who possess the ticket that prospective legislators must expensively buy in order to find their way into parliament.

One major consequence of the twisted expectations and the excessive monetization of parliamentary elections is that most of the technical, knowledgeable and competent people are automatically alienated from the process. For instance, a prospective legislator, with the much-needed leadership knowledge, education, eloquence and persuasiveness might be discouraged from contesting due to the inability or unwillingness to abide by the twisted roles of a legislator. For them, participating in such politics equates to a person who is ambitious enough such that they consider massaging a live crocodile.

Subsequently, such ideal candidates resort to becoming social media “legislators” and a few might formally express their views through writing analytical columns in newspapers, among other outlets.

The same ideal legislators will regularly buy newspapers and religiously watch news on TV with the hope for any political surprises. On a regular basis, they will vent their anger and argue eloquently about various political issues on social media platforms.

Furthermore, because of the knowledge that the best candidates will not generally win, most of the elites have abdicated their civic duties to peasants. For instance, it is unlikely that most elites will attend public rallies of prospective members of parliament in their constituencies such that they can cross-examine the candidates on their manifestos and their general credibility for the position.

Instead, because the biggest expectations from the public rallies are tokens in form of soap, sugar, salt and money, it is the peasants who trail the campaigning candidates as they re-echo empty slogans. Consequently, it is the same peasants who ensure that they vote while the elites take the voting day as just another public holiday meant for socialization, partying, sleeping for longer hours and checking on personal projects.

It is not uncommon to find seemingly educated people declaring proudly that they have never voted and will never vote as they do not believe that their vote can make a difference. Therefore, the abdication of civic duties while at the same time expecting effective representation constitutes betrayal, deception and a certain form of madness on the part of most elites.

If government is a mechanism for determining policy, and politics involves the power and advantage to influence such policies, a general look at the profiles of most of our current legislators leaves one wondering if the respective honorable members are the best that each constituency could afford in order to have their views and interests represented.

Perhaps, the best manifestation of the vacuum created by the abdication of political and civic duties by the elites is the fact that the victory of several candidates is retrospectively challenged shortly after winning the elections.

Somehow, some candidates seem to compile all manner of bizarre certificates, which include marriage certificates, birth certificates, conference attendance certificates and perhaps air tickets so as to convince the Electoral Commission that they have the equivalence of A-level, which is the minimum education requirement.

It is little wonder then that some legislators return to school shortly after winning the elections to ensure that they clear the cloud of doubt over their academic credentials.

Nevertheless, there are some legislators who really measure up to the expectations of their role. However, the high numbers of those who are not fit for the purpose casts a shadow of incompetence over the whole House. For instance, while there are over 400 legislators, it appears that there are between 10 to 15 legislators who seem to represent the views and interest of not just their constituencies but the entire country.

Judging by the views and representation and vigilance during highly contentious debates, one might think that each of the regions and subregions of Uganda have one person representing them instead of each constituency having its own representative.

Unfortunately, the quality of legislators somehow determines not just the quality but the performance of the ministers since the legislators form the pool from which most ministers are selected.

Beyond representing the views and interests of their people, most of the legislators belong to a series of key parliamentary committees, which must ensure accountability as well as overseeing all government operations. To expect effective monitoring of government organs from an incompetent member of parliament equates to charging a blind person with the duty of presiding over a dancing contest.

The writer is a social worker in Alberta, Canada.

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