- A majority (56%) of Ugandans say it is “wrong and punishable” for candidates or political party officials to offer money in return for a vote, a 7-percentage-point increase from 2010. One in four (27%) consider the practice “wrong but understandable.” Only 15% say it is “not wrong at all.”
- However, only about four in 10 (39%) consider it “wrong and punishable” for voters to receive money in return for their votes. The proportion of respondents who say it is “not wrong at all” for voters to accept money increased by 15 percentage points between 2010 and 2019, from 9% to 24%.
- One-third (34%) of Ugandans say they were offered incentives such as gifts, money, or food in return for their votes in the 2016 election. Less educated and poor citizens are more likely to report being offered voting incentives than their more educated and better-off counterparts.
- Among 34 African countries surveyed in 2011/2013, Uganda recorded the highest percentage of respondents (41%) who said they were offered voting incentives.
- In 2015, half of Ugandans said voters are “always” (31%) or “often” (19%) bribed in the country’s elections. A quarter (25%) said voter bribery occurs “sometimes,” while only 18% said voters are “never” bribed.
Buying and selling votes is illegal in Uganda, punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine, according to the Parliamentary Elections Act (Government of Uganda, 2005). Analysts argue that voter bribery fosters a broader environment of corruption that impedes economic development, political accountability, and the provision of public goods (Stokes, 2005; Robinson & Verdier, 2013; Khemani, 2015).
Even so, many observers say that some Ugandan politicians provide money and goods to voters and target gifts to constituents who are likely to reciprocate with their votes. According to the Electoral Commission’s (2011) report to Parliament on the 2010/2011 elections, bribery and commercialization of elections were among the main concerns that election observers raised. The Democracy Monitoring Group (2011), a consortium of four civil society organizations, described vote buying in Ugandan elections as “pervasive.”
How do ordinary Ugandans see the exchange of incentives for votes?
Findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey suggest that vote buying is not uncommon in Uganda. While a majority of Ugandans view it as “wrong and punishable” for candidates or political party officials to give out money or gifts in exchange for votes, fewer condemn voters who accept money in return for their votes. The proportion of citizens who think it is “not wrong at all” for voters to accept money has almost tripled over the past decade.
In fact, one in three Ugandans say they were personally offered incentives such as food, a gift, or money in return for their votes in the 2016 elections.
As Uganda heads toward the 2021 general elections, these findings point to a need for more voter-education campaigns as well as stronger implementation of laws against voter bribery.