Uganda 2016 election:Negative ad and online campaigns

August 19, 2015

Uganda electoral body recently announced the official campaigns kicks off in three months from now but that has not stopped negative online advertising by various political actors.It seems a common phenomenon in political campaigns in African countries, thus banning this kind of advertising or related content is considered necessary to many.Many consider tribal hate speech based on political undertones to have been the main cause of election violence in Kenya in 2007/2008 election.On the other hand, this issue is still much debated, as this practice raises questions regarding ethics and the responsibilities that politicians and society need to take into account concerning particular negative effects of negative political campaigning.In Uganda, a country that has enjoyed stability and peace for the past thirty years under President Yoweri Museveni, a variety of different arguments have been put forward about the issue.In Western world, it is claimed that negative advertising is an excellent strategy, which is often used in political campaigns in many other regions including Africa. This is true because negative advertising in political campaigns can persuade voters.However, in reality this negative advertising is not really effective.This is clearly because voters can differentiate which one is the best candidate. They cannot be fully influenced by negative advertising and online campaigns. In my considered opinion, negative online and advertising campaigns is only effective for low-income people, who are more gullible as they are mostly uneducated and tend to easily believe the claims mentioned in the negative campaigns.

Justifying that it is better to focus on negative advertising because voters need to know a candidate’s background, whether it is good or bad, seems to be a bad idea and a dangerous path that young Ugandan politicians are taking.Nowadays, many Ugandans do not care about politics. And this problem could be solved by creating interest in politics such as by giving the background and achievements of the candidates. Indeed, negative advertising in political campaigns is one method that can be used to change Ugandan’s perception about politics. As a result, this measure can create intelligent community politics. However, negative advertising in political campaigns in upcoming 2016 Uganda election could produce “the politics of the personal”, focusing on the personality or personal qualities of the candidate. In fact, the politics of the personal is not appropriate for developing countries, such as Uganda which is a young democracy by international standards.The politics of the personal may result in provocation that can easily end in violence in Uganda. For instance, many ethnic conflicts occurring in various African countries recently were triggered by provocation and racial issues raised in political campaigns.Me think, the politics of the personal may damage Uganda’s democratic process. This is because the aspiring parliamentary and presidential candidates and the sponsor may create a defamatory campaign to win the 2016 general election.By attracting and criticising each other through negative advertising,Ugandan voters will get enough information before they decide to choose a candidate.

This is because the balancing role of the mass media and civil society can monitor the fair running of the election. Negative campaign strategy often fails because voters give a negative reaction to the candidate who insults other candidates unfairly. Indeed, there is a little difference between legitimate criticism and harsh insults.It is clear that 2016 Ugandan Election will prove whether supporters of negative political campaigns are right and successful or not. The evidence suggests that negative political advertising should be banned.Although negative campaigns may be based on truth, however the truth has often been abused to attack the opponent. Ugandan politicians and candidates use many strategies to win the election, although some of these may be illegal and unethical. In my opinion, negative political advertising in political campaigns can produce a dangerous bureaucratic and social backlash.The bureaucracy and the people may split into two groups; one in support of those in power and another that supports the challengers. In Contador Harrison opinion, negative advertising and buffoonery online postings in political campaigns should be strongly regulated by Ugandan government. Only in this way can the valuable political education that the Ugandans need develop, while at the same time encourage the contributions of all productive members of ‘Pearl of Africa’ society to develop as country. Ugandans perception about politics will change gradually if the country succeed in reducing the use of negative advertising in day-to-day politics.That should start with 2016 Uganda general election slated for March 2016.

Contador Harrison