Uganda May be Headed for Highest-Ever Level of Campaign Spending


(Bloomberg) -- Uganda may be headed for its most expensive campaign spending as long-serving ruler Yoweri Museveni faces a pop star-turned politician in the February 2021 polls, an election monitoring group said.

Presidential and parliamentary candidates are likely to spend more than the 2.4 trillion shillings ($655.6 million) that went toward 2016 elections, Henry Muguzi, national coordinator for the Kampala-based Alliance for Finance Monitoring said in an interview. Museveni, who has unofficially kicked off his campaign, is expected to use more than $200 million.

Other presidential candidates will spend more than $10 million each, while parliamentary candidates are expected to spend more than $150,000 each, he said.

“Money seems to be the method of campaigning chosen by aspiring candidates across the political divide because already many of them are engaged in spending on the ground to endear themselves to the electorate that is poor, hungry and economically vulnerable,” Muguzi said.

Museveni, 75, has been in power since 1986, and is spending on projects in the ghettos, where Robert Kyagulanyi, 37, who goes by the stage name Bobi Wine, commands support, according to Muguzi, whose group published a report on election financing.

The emergence of Kyagulanyi has heightened stakes and may lead to money and coercion being at play ahead of the vote, Muguzi said. Wine, a reggae star who was elected lawmaker in 2017, said this month he and his People Power movement are in talks with other members of the opposition to put up a single candidate against Museveni. The pop star, who has been arrested several times and was charged with treason, appeals to young people in a country where a third of the youth are unemployed or not receiving an education.

“The rising popularity of the people power movement amid a bulge of young people who are jobless, poor and restless yet natives of social media, is bringing in a new dynamic and raising the stakes,” according to the report. “The handiest weapon for incumbents to win the hearts of the electorate is money.”

Museveni, who is already one of the longest serving rulers in Africa, became eligible to seek re-election after parliament in 2017 abolished an upper age limit of 75 years for a presidential candidate. The ruling party has since endorsed him as its candidate.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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