Youth Participation Hindered by Political Commercialization

Multi Party Youth Platform Uganda
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A recent study conducted by the Public Policy Institute (PPI), Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) has shed light on a significant obstacle to youth engagement in the country’s electoral processes: the heavy commercialization of politics. These findings were unveiled during the launch of the 2026 youth electoral roadmap and the presentation of proposed electoral reforms in Kampala, as Uganda prepares for the 2026 general election.

The study reveals a stark reality: during the 2016 primary and general elections in Uganda, candidates running for parliamentary positions spent an average of Shs465 million ($136,084), while those vying for Local Council (LCV) seats spent an average of Shs237.5 million ($69,505). To put this into perspective, a candidate aspiring to parliamentary office spent up to 210 times the average income of a Ugandan on their campaign, highlighting the exorbitant costs associated with politics.

This revelation comes at a time when the 11th parliament of Uganda comprises only 12.3 percent of parliamentarians aged 35 and below, despite the fact that 75 percent of the country’s population falls within this age group. Mr. Edson Rugumayo, the western youth MP, emphasizes the need to increase youth representation in Parliament to effectively advocate for youth-related issues. Currently, only five youth MPs out of 557 members of parliament represent over 75 percent of Uganda’s population under the age of 35. Rugumayo emphasizes that to amplify youth voices, a greater number of youth MPs is required.

Mr. Jacob Eyeru, the Chairperson of the National Youth Council, underlines the importance of youth participation in electoral processes to achieve meaningful voter turnout. In the 2021 elections, the youth population constituted approximately 40.8 percent of voters, but the overall voter turnout in Uganda was less than 60 percent. Eyeru calls on young people to play a pivotal role in ensuring that elections revolve around substantive issues, urging them to demand that leaders address real concerns without bias.

Primus Atukwase Bahiigi, the Country Director for the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), highlights the significance of the youth electoral roadmap’s launch and the presentation of multiparty youth forum’s electoral reforms. These initiatives provide a structured and well-documented strategy to enhance youth participation in upcoming elections. Bahiigi views this as a pivotal moment in Uganda’s democratic journey, outlining the roadmap’s focus on early mobilization to amplify the voices and aspirations of Uganda’s youth.

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Bernard Odoi, the Eastern region youth MP, suggests that discussions about having youth MPs from every region should be extended to every sub-region for the benefit of Uganda. This inclusive approach aims to address the representation gaps faced by the country’s young population.

The event, attended by secretaries general from different political parties, youth members of parliament, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders, proposed various electoral reforms. These reforms include amending the Parliamentary Elections Act to reduce nomination fees from UGX 3 million to UGX 500,000, lowering the nomination fees for special interest groups from UGX 3 million to UGX 200,000, and providing practical means for prisoners and Ugandans in the diaspora to exercise their right to vote. These reforms seek to create a more inclusive and accessible electoral system in Uganda.

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