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Why Uganda needs the Proportional Representation electoral system



This study, carried out in November to December 2011 with support from the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, introduces and presents the Proportional Representation (PR) as the best electoral system needed to address a number of deficits in Uganda’s democracy. It is the only system that can ensure effective and genuine representation. It is the preferred electoral system for a growing number of stable and prosperous democratic countries of the world.

To contextualize the study, we dwell on an analysis of Uganda’s political system; the evolution of the country’s present winner-take-all electoral system and the impact it has had on Uganda’s democracy, including the ills associate with it – election violence, vote-buying, etc – and a lingering individual merit system that has undermined the strengthening of political parties. The associated worrying trend of increasing voter apathy is also highlighted.

The study then attempts to give a true picture of the importance of an Electoral System in a democracy. The concept of Proportional Representation is introduced and compared with the First-past-the-post, or FPTP, model and we depict their advantages and disadvantages.

We later introduce variants of the Proportional Representation models by introducing the PR models of four countries: South Africa, Israel, Palestine and The Netherlands. A list of countries that practice Proportional Representation is provided as an appendix.

The Study takes note of the impact of the electoral system and shows that PR is compliant with both the Parliamentary and Presidential models.

We conclude with some recommendations on the right PR model for Uganda and put forward some milestones towards the adoption and implementation of the system.

Author Biography

Muhammad K. Mayanja is the Chairman of the Justice Forum (Jeema) Party. Omar D. Kalinge-Nnyago is the Party Secretary-General.


What is Proportional Representation?

Proportional representation(PR) is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system, if 30 percent of voters support a particular party, then roughly 30 percent of the seats will be won by that party.

Common terms used in Proportional Representation

Party List

This is the system in which voters choose from among parties, rather than among candidates, and seats are awarded to the parties in proportion to the votes they have received. Each party submits a list of candidates for the election. This list is the “Party List”.


A Slate is the Party List a party presents at an election.

Mixed Member Proportional Voting

In this method, a half of the members are elected by a party-list vote, while the other half is elected through single member plural voting.

Single Transferable Vote

A single transferable vote or STV system is a type of PR electoral system. In this system the voters rank candidates in their order of preference by numbering the candidates on the ballot. The candidates with the highest preferences are elected.


First past the post system is also called the Westminster model, as it originates in the political culture of United Kingdom. The basic principle of FPTP is that the winner is the candidate with the plurality – relative majority – of all valid votes. Connecting this with the second important feature, single-member district, FPTP is the least proportional formula leaving usually more than 50 percent of cast votes unrepresented.

On the other hand it is praised for its ability to form a one-party majority government, which does not have to seek for support from and built coalition with other parties. While this is the standard in the western democracies, in many of the developing countries with diverse societies and multi-party system (for instance in India), the wining party without parliamentarian majority has to look for coalition partners. In general, FPTP leads to disproportionalrepresentation, many wasted votes and elimination of minorities.

Historical evolution of FPTP in Uganda

Uganda attained independence from the British Colonial rulers in 1962. The 1962 Independence Constitution provided for an executive prime minister and a non-executive president for Uganda. The Constitution also provided for a federal and semi-federal system of governance along the British Westminster model. In the independence election, the UPC and Kabaka Yekka (KY) alliance won the largest seats in Parliament. The leader of UPC Dr. Milton Obote emerged as Executive Prime Minister while Sir Edward Mutesa, the then Kabaka of Buganda who delivered the KY votes from his people, was elected non-executive President of Uganda.

Since independence, Uganda has gone through a series of political crises involving the use of violence and the security forces to abrogate the Constitution, besides changing electoral and political systems to favor one group or another. This includes the crises of 1966, 1971, 1979, 1985 and 1986. These crises resulted in extension, suspension, postponement or tempering with the electoral rules, denying Ugandans the opportunity to search for effective representative models of elections until the 1995 Constitution was made.

1995 Constitution

After 7 years of interim administration, in 1993, the NRM Government appointed a constitutional commission to make a new Constitution for Uganda that would establish a new system of governance and election. The Commission was chaired by Justice Benjamin Odoki. The Odoki Commission made extensive consultation countrywide and took 2 years to come up with a draft. An interim electoral commission was constituted by President Museveni and it organized elections for the Constituent Assembly delegates.

The constitutional making process was dominated by various short-term interest groups, including those who wanted to preserve the NRM Government in power.

After heated debates, the Constituent Assembly promulgated a new Constitution that provided for the First-past-the-post (FPTP), a Movement system of Governance and direct presidential, parliamentary, local government and other public elections. The political parties were frozen according to Article 271 since it was not possible to have more than one political system in force.

However, the Constitution stipulated thatParliament shall have no power to enact a law establishing a one-party state.” But the Constitution recognized the continued existence of the Movement which was state-funded. The Constitution also provided for the changing of the political system through a referendum. The new Constitution provided for a term limit to the office of the president under Article 105.

General elections were held in 1995 under the individual merit system as provided for by the Constitution. Three candidates namely Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Paul Kawanga Semogerere and Muhammad Kibirige Mayanja contested the Presidential election. President Museveni was declared the winner. Although parties were not allowed to exist, the entire Movement machinery supported the candidature of President Museveni and the Parliamentary candidates he anointed.

After the election in 1996, the opposition campaigned vigorously against the Movement system and challenged the system through the courts of law for infringing human rights and freedom of association. In 2005 the constitution was amended, to eliminate individual merit and allow the operation of full multiparty democracy in Uganda.

However, the term limit on the office of the president was lifted, opening the way for President Museveni, who had completed his mandatory two terms, to stand again. The new Parliament which emerged from the election was weak and was directly controlled by the president.

The Constitution provided for every district to elect one Woman representative in addition to the opportunity for women to compete with men in open constituencies. The total women positions at district level were about 30 percent of the total seats in parliament. The women, however, competed for a much larger constituency than the normal parliamentary constituency and women constituencies were largely dominated by NRM candidates whom the movement funded.

After the 2005 amendments, parties could field candidates to each constituency while independent candidates could also present themselves to various constituencies, but the FPTP electoral system was maintained. An electoral commission appointed by the president with approval from Parliament was put in charge of organizing and supervising the election.

Statement of the problem

The promulgation of a new Constitution in 1995 and the subsequent amendments in 2005 fell short of bringing about genuine representation for all various groups and political parties in Uganda. It created the FPTP system that leads to a two-party system instead of a genuine proportional representative democracy.

The General elections held in 1980, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 in Uganda have all produced exactly the same pattern of results. Each election was contested for by three or more parties but the elections were dominated by the two leading parties and the rest of the parties got less than seven percent of total votes cast. The elections were organized under different models of democracy.

The 1980 elections were conducted under the Westminster parliamentary model, the 1996 and 2001 were under the individual merit Movement system, while the 2006 and 2011 elections were under the multiparty democracy American-style directly elected president. But the patterns of results were identical. Clearly this phenomenon calls for further examination.

The two-party system works in favor of the two most powerful teams (including the incumbent) and does not tolerate many parties. Once it sorts out the two strongest parties or candidates, others are practically suffocated and buried alive. This is the bitter experience we have to accept from 1980, 1996, 2001 and 2006 election in Uganda.

The women could only be brought in through the reserved constituencies as it was under the movement. However, the reserved constituencies were too large and quite straining to female starters, giving the ruling NRM, which afforded to finance the campaigns of its candidates, an unfair advantage.

It is therefore critical to search for a representative electoral system and to use all possible means to influence electoral reform in Uganda.


The Electoral system (sometimes called voting system) is the fundamental element of every representative democracy. Despite its crucial importance in the system of constitutional institutions, it was in many cases a subject of accidental choice. Electoral system shapes the rules of the game among political parties and individuals and can affect who is elected and which party gains power. It also influences both the party system and the internal structure and cohesion of political parties.

It has been discovered that electoral systems determine the broader political culture; the way in which political parties and their representatives behave. The system may encourage parties to cooperate further and forge alliances or it can deepen animosity among different social and political groups. The decision of the right electoral system for the country has an impact on the turnout at the election. It not only gives hope to  disillusioned voters who may fear that their vote would be wasted due to disproportionality, but also does away with a complicated electoral system that is unclear to the average voter.

Each representative democracy needs an electoral system, which determines the procedure of electing people’s representatives. The electoral system can be defined as set of methods for translating the citizens’ votes into representatives’ seats (Lijphart, 1994).

Criteria for evaluating an Electoral System

An electoral system is evaluated on the following criteria

  • Fairness between political parties
  • Effective representation of minority and special interest groups
  • Effective representation of minorities
  • Political integration
  • Effective representation of constituents
  • Effective voters’ participation
  • Effective government
  • Effective parties
  • Effective parliament
  • Legitimacy


There is ample evidence that many Democracies are rapidly transforming to the PR electoral system. Although Britain had resisted PR, the present government is a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems advocate for a proportional representation electoral system.

Countries that use the Proportional Representation electoral system

A list of countries which use the Proportional Electoral System is attached as Appendix 2.

4.2 Basic Principles of PR

The basic principle underlying PR elections is that all voters deserve representation and that all political groups deserve to be represented in our legislature in proportion to their strengths in the electorate. Everyone should have the right to fair representation.

In order to achieve this fair representation, all PR systems have certain basic characteristics that set them apart from other electoral systems. Instead of electing one person in each constituency (electoral district), several people are elected together in varying sizes of member constituencies (districts). The whole country may form one multi-member District, or there may be relatively small multi-member Districts with only 3-4 members or they may be larger with 10-20 members.

The second Characteristic of all PR systems is that they divide up the seats in the multi-member districts according to the proportion of votes received by the various parties or groups fielding candidates. Thus if the candidates of party A win 40 percent of the votes in a 10-member district, they receive four of the 10 seats, or 40 percent. If another party wins 20 percent of the votes, it gets two seats, and so on.


There are several models of PR. In this section we introduce the PR models of four countries; South Africa, Israel, Palestine and the Netherlands.

Proportional Representation in South Africa

The 1993 South African Interim Constitution (which facilitated the 1994 democratic election) specified in detail the procedures to be used for the election of the national and provincial legislatures. This resulted in an electoral system that is almost purely proportional. It’s proportional in that there is a nationwide district for the conversion of votes into seats facilitated by a large national assembly. Furthermore, there is no electoral threshold, which would require a party to receive a certain minimum number of votes to win a seat.

The system is laudable in that it makes for maximum proportionality, a factor that strengthens the democratization process. The country’s 1996 Constitution, however, only prescribes that the electoral system “results in general in proportional representation.”

Debate with regards to adjusting South Africa’s electoral system surfaced after the 1999 election. The main area of contention has been that the Proportional Representation lessens accountability between representatives and their constituencies. This is compounded by the fact that South African party lists are closed. The anti-defection clause (prohibiting crossing of the parliamentary floor) has also been criticized and labeled undemocratic.

The point of this clause is to ensure that parliamentary seats, which are party allocated, remain with the parties – it does however have the unfortunate effect of producing MP’s who toe party lines rather than holding their allegiance to voters. The legislation that was passed in late 2001 allowing party defection at a local level in order to facilitate the Democratic Alliance split has signaled the need for this clause to be reviewed.

Theorists advocate that democracies in transition have different requirements from electoral systems than consolidating democracies. It is argued that South Africa has successfully drawn its many players into its democratisation process and has significantly strengthened its ruling party in order to deal with programmes of social and economic reform – what is needed now is for democracy to be seen in motion in terms of public participation.

Specialists in the field of electoral systems such as Arend Lijphart, Andrew Reynolds and Jorgen Elklit have put forward suggestions that a constituency element be implemented into the South African PR system, whereby PR lists at national level would be combined with either single or multi-member constituencies. This would introduce a direct accountability element into the South African system while still maintaining its proportionally representative nature.

Proportional Representation in Israel

Israel has an electoral system based on nation-wide proportional representation. In other words, the number of seats that each party list receives in the Knesset – the House of Representatives – is proportional to the number of votes it received. Unlike most Western parliamentary democracies, the system in Israel is followed in an extreme manner, and the only limitation is that a party which participates in an should pass the qualifying threshold, which is currently 1.5 percent.

Who can participate in elections?
The contest in the elections is among lists of candidates. Since the Parties Law was passed in 1992, only a party which has been legally registered with the Party Registrar, or an alignment of two or more registered parties which have decided to run in the elections together, can present a list of candidates and participate in the elections.

The distribution of seats among the lists
The lists that have passed the qualifying threshold receive a number of Knesset seats which is proportional to their electoral strength. This is done by the division of valid votes given to the lists which passed the qualifying threshold, by 120, which is the number of seats in the Knesset. Two lists can reach an agreement regarding the distribution of excess votes between them before the elections.

Who is elected to the Knesset?
The candidates of any given list are elected to the Knesset on the basis of the order in which they appear on it. If a certain party received sufficient votes for 10 seats, the first 10 candidates on its list will enter the Knesset. If a Knesset member passes away or resigns his seat in the Knesset for whatever reason, the next on the list will replace him or her. Therefore in Israel there is no concept of bye-election.

In Israel, there is no direct presidential election. The leader of the party with the largest number of seats or the leader of the party that can form coalitions with the largest number of seats forms the Government. Israel has a non-executive President, who is elected by Parliament. The president may come from the party with the largest number of seats, or through bargaining, Parliament can elect any other leading statesman as President.

Proportional Representation in Palestine

There are 132 seats in the Palestinian Parliament. 66 of them are elected proportionally on a national party list system.

The other 66 deputies are elected in local districts.
Using proportional voting for the election of half of the seats was an important development in the Palestinian electoral system. It helped ensure fairer representation of the various parties and of all Palestinians.

In Palestine, the electoral system is PR for Parliament but they also still hold direct Presidential Elections. So, Parliament derives its mandate from the general population and the President also gets the same from the electorate. This means that Parliament has no powers to impeach the President, because both the legislature and the executive derive their mandate form the same source.

It is this scenario that created the current impasse in Palestine between the President (Mahmood Abbas of the PLO) and the legislature controlled by Hamas. When disagreements between the two broke out, the Parliament had no power to impeach the President. Conversely, the President had no power to dissolve parliament. This ended up with Hamas controlling Gaza and President Mahmoud Abbas controlling the West Bank.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands’ electoral system as introduced in 1917 has remained in effect since that time, although some details have been altered. The Netherlands still elects the Second Chamber according to the multi-member candidate list system of proportional representation. Lists of candidates are presented on the ballot.

Since 1956 the name of the party or list is placed above the list. The order of the lists is according to the size of the party delegation in the Second Chamber. (For the parties having no parliamentary representation, the ordering is determined by lot).

On the list a party may list up to 30 names on the ballot, or twice the number of its incumbent representatives in Parliament, with a maximum of 80. There are 19 electoral districts, but these exist more out of practical reasons and most parties will submit the lists in each of the districts (although the names on the list may vary, and there is no requirement that candidates live in the district or have any relationship with the district).

All votes cast for a candidate on a party list accrue to the total for the party. For the determination of the number of seats to be allocated to a party, the electoral districts play no role; seats are apportioned proportionally according to the national vote. On the ballot a black square with a white circle is placed next to each candidate on the list. The voter must fill in the circle next to one of the candidates with a red pencil (for machine ballots there is a lever for each candidate).

In 1956 the number of seats in the Second Chamber was increased from 100 to 150. The only threshold for obtaining representation in the Second Chamber is the number of valid votes cast, divided by 150, which also determines the electoral quotient (recently about 60,000 votes). Each multiple of the electoral quotient entitles a party to an additional seat.

When each party has received the seats to which it is entitled in this manner, it is generally found that not all seats have been allotted. The seats that remain are distributed by the method of largest average (the so called d’Hondt method). This replaced the largest remainder system in 1933, as the largest average was felt to provide a more precise proportionality. The use of this method does provide an advantage to larger parties. As a partial compensation for smaller parties since 1973 it has been possible to combine lists, both within and across districts, for the determination of the number of seats received.

Once the total number of seats for each party has been determined, the first name on the list is declared elected. The procedure next moves to the second name on the list, and continues until all seats have been filled. The only exception is that a candidate who receives a quarter of the electoral quotient is declared elected automatically (presuming of course that his or her party is entitled to at least one representative). The lists remain in effect between elections and are used to fill seats that have fallen empty. No by-elections are held.

Roughly the same system as explained above is used for municipal, provincial and European elections. Only the First Chamber is chosen in a different way; its members are chosen by the provincial legislatures.

Though commitment to proportionality is extremely strong in the Netherlands, compulsory voting was abolished in 1970.


The strengths and weaknesses of the PR system vis-à-vis the strengths and weaknesses of FPTP are presented in the table below. In many instances the strengths of PR turns out to be weakness of FPTP.




Proportional Representation

1. Proportional Representation

2. Party Manifesto and team accountability

3. Inclusiveness in Parliament and cabinet

4. Opportunity to form coalitions after election

5. Women and other disadvantaged groups do not need for reserved constituencies

6. Opportunity to transfer votes

7. Less susceptible to vote-buying

8. No need for a bye election

1. Weak Government that can collapse any time.

2. Presupposes strong civil service which may not be in place in developing countries


First Past The Post (Winner-take-all)

1. Geographic and individual accountability

2. Stable one party Government

3. Cabinet formed from one party, hence homogeneous and consensual team

1. Winner takes all


2. Disproportional

3. No opportunity to make coalitions after elections

4. Creates two-party hegemony

5. Women can only be brought in through affirmative action

6. Leaves large number of ‘wasted votes’

7. Susceptible to constituency boundary manipulation

8. Susceptible to violence and vote buying


Proportional Representation is primarily about the electoral system. However, as pointed out at the beginning, the way the voting is done influences both the party system and the internal structure and cohesion of parties. Electoral systems determine the broader political culture, the way in which political parties and their representatives behave. It may encourage parties for further cooperation and forging of alliances, or it can also tend to deepen the animosity among separate socio-political groups. If the electoral system changed, the political system may also need to change.

A survey of the political system among countries which are running on PR shows that there is a broad array of political systems. The most important issue in the political systems for PR is whether the country should have a presidential system or a parliamentary system. A presidential system means that the President is directly elected as well as Parliament. A parliamentary system means Parliament is the only one which is elected by the electorate and the party with the largest number of MPs form the government. In many cases the Parliamentary system also determines the proportion of cabinet seats for each party.

Countries from our list on PR with parliamentary system include Israel, Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Japan and India. Those with a Presidential system while at the same time on the PR include: Palestine, South Africa, France, Russia, Namibia and Congo. Thus PR is possible and compliant with both the Parliamentary model and the Presidential model.

However, the case of the Palestinian example, whereby the presidential model ended up with a divided country between the Hamas who controlled Parliament and took control of Gaza and a directly elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, who took control of the West Bank puts a big caveat on the presidential system under PR.

In Uganda, the political system in force has been the Presidential system. The president is simultaneously elected with Parliament by the same electorate. Both the president and parliament derive their mandate directly from the electorate and none of these two organs has the moral authority to claim supremacy over the other. The president has had too much powers in Uganda, sometimes even manipulating Parliament. Once a president is sworn in, he cannot be sued in any courts of law in the country. He appoints all top judges. As we begin to revisit the electoral system, we must also examine the Presidential system in Uganda.


What is the justification to adopt PR?

  • PR is just and equitable. In the majoritarian system with simple majority, a parliamentary candidate can win a constituency with low levels of the overall vote (for example 30 percent). This means a party can win majority seats in parliament with far less than 50 percent of overall support. This injustice does not occur under the PR because each party representation is proportional to the number of votes it gets countrywide.
  • No vote is wasted under PR. A popular candidate with nationwide support collects votes all over the country. Under the majoritarian system a parliamentary candidate who has support nationwide is restricted to votes in one constituency. Furthermore, if a candidate gets 100 percent support in the majoritarian system, the excess votes needed to win a constituency (49 percent) are redundant. In PR the excess votes needed to win a constituency are transferred to other candidates elsewhere for the party. Therefore there are no redundant votes in the PR, since the election is for a list of all the party’s candidate in an election.
  • PR will eliminate the excess burden of a larger constituency (District) to women. In a way the current system which subjects women to a bigger electoral area than men is discriminatory. Only rich women or women from the party in power (which in Uganda could have ill-acquired resources) will be able to win under the present system.
  • PR will curbs election violence and vote buying. PR requires party list voting and this in a way is often driven by political ideas through Manifestos rather than personalities. Individuals have no particular constituencies since we are running under a multi-member constituency.
  • PR is a true multiparty democracy and not a dual-party system (hegemony of the two largest parties). The narrowing down of choices to two options which have cropped up in Ugandan elections is best dealt with by the PR system. All media attention shifts to the two main contenders (duopoly) and the third and fourth parties are almost ignored by the mainstream media. The duopoly system breeds voter apathy, resulting into low voter turn up. Once third, fourth and fifth candidates are seen as spoilers their parties are crippled and minority voices are quashed. Certain sections of the electorate are excluded from political participation and therefore disenfranchised.
  • Coalitions formed after the election: One of the main advantages of PR is that it favors formation of coalitions after the election. During the last 10 years Uganda’s opposition political parties have been trying to form coalitions with little success. Under First-past-the-post, the only meaningful coalition is before the election. Formation of coalition before the election is difficult because the relative strength of each party has not been established. If you all field candidates, you divide the votes and you all lose. However it is difficult to select candidates under a coalition because there is no objective criterion for arriving at the right candidates to field, and this is how coalitions collapse.
  • The election-related war in 1980, which brought President Museveni to power, could have been avoided if there was a just electoral system such as the proportional representation in Uganda. The election in 1980 was held under the FPTP system. President Museveni quickly realized that the dual-party system was futile in 1981. The two leading contenders then were Milton Obote’s UPC and Paul Semogerere’s DP. Museveni’s UPM and Mayanja Nkangi’s CP were spoilers in the 1981 election. Museveni realized that the UPM would never take off. He therefore resorted to armed struggle in 19981. If Mr Musevni had not gone to the bush to take over power by force of arms he would probably not even be winning more than 10 percent seats in Parliament today. It is not far fetched to forecast that another Museveni will arise in the future after getting frustrated with the current FPTP and unleash another ‘liberation’ bush war in Uganda.


Model of PR

We recommend a PR model that distributes seats according to the proportion of votes received in the elections by different parties. If a party wins 40 percent of the vote, it gets 40 percent of the seats in Parliament.

We recommend that the whole country be divided into 10 member electoral constituency/districts.The different regions to become multi-member electoral Regions/Districts should be the West Nile Region, Northern Region, Karamoja/Teso Region, Eastern Region, Busoga Region, South Buganda Region, North Buganda Region, Western Region, South Western Region and Greater Kampala Region.

The seats in each electoral regions/districts will be determined by the population size in that region. It is therefore clear that the electoral regions will not have the same number of seats.

We recommend that the contests in the elections be among lists of candidates in each region. The candidates of any given list will be elected to Parliament on the basis of the order in which they appear on the list for each region. If a certain party received sufficient votes for five seats in a region, the first five candidates on its list will enter Parliament. If an MP passes away or resigns his seat or is disqualified from sitting in Parliament for whatever reason, the next on the list will replace him or her. Therefore there will be no bye-elections.

We recommend that no votes should be lost for whatever reason. If there are excess votes in one Region they should be transferred to another region to increase the number of seats in parliament for that party.

We propose further that we adopt a model of PR where the proportion of votes does not only determine Parliamentary representation but also participation in Government.

To ensure that women equitably participate, the slates or priority list of candidates at all levels must include women candidates. For every three candidates listed in each region, at least one of them must be a woman.

We propose further that Uganda exploits the change to PR to reduce the size of Parliament and Cabinet. The tax-payers in Uganda have been for a long time over-burdened by a large Parliament. The number of seats in Parliament should be brought down to 200. Given a total population of 35 million people, we propose that every 175,000 people be represented by one MP elected in a multi-member region/district.

The size of cabinet too should be down-sized. Cabinet, including ministers, ministers of state and deputy ministers should be 20 percent of the size of parliament. The size of Cabinet therefore should be 40 members.

Political system

In order to avoid the inherent clash between the directly elected President and Parliament, and in order to reduce corruption (vote buying), we should adopt the parliamentary model of PR. Instead of the electorate voting for the President and Parliament, all focus in the election should be on parliament (Parliamentary system).

The leader of the party with the largest number of seats in Government should be given the opportunity to form the Government and become the executive prime minister. The prime minister must not be exempted from court processes as another check and balance of power. S/he should be sued and should be able to sue as an individual. The subjection of the chief executive to court process shall act as a control mechanism to minimize the abuse of power.

Parliament should then sit and elect a president. Although the president should be a non-executive leader, he should exercise considerable powers. However, being the fountain of honor, the non-executive President should be exempted from the court processes. S/he should in fact appoint the Judges with Parliamentary scrutiny. He should be the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and should be the one to approve the promotion and appointment in the army.

Elections at District, Sub-county and LC1 levels

The PR system works at local council levels as well. Since the districts, sub-counties and LC 1 are small areas, they can form one electoral area for all the seats in the council. Each party should present its slate (lists of members it wants to constitute the council and take the seats in proportion to the votes they get in the election). A similar arrangement should be followed at sub-county level. The election is for a party rather than an individual. The party with most votes or the coalition with a majority identifies the chairman and forms the Government. But all the parties can be included in the village, sub-county and district cabinets.


There have been a number of calls across the political divide in Uganda to transform to Proportional Representation, but no deliberate steps have been taken to move the process forward. It would be futile if this initiative stops at producing just this paper and shelve it to gather dust. It is therefore important that some effort be made to move the process further. The process to transform current FPTP to PR in Uganda can be divided into various milestones. These include:

  1. Sensitization of key stakeholders such as leaders in the different political parties, Parliament and the Civil Society Organizations about PR and how it works.
  2. Educating and mobilizing the general public so as to empower them to demand for the change of the electoral system from the present one (FPTP) to PR.
  3. Setting in motion the process of agreeing on the model of PR to adopt in Uganda
  4. Process for amending the Constitution to transform from FPTP to PR.

Sensitization of key Stakeholders

Of the above 4 steps, we propose that initiatives be made to carryout the first step. We propose that workshops for key leaders in each party be organized as a test of the receptiveness to the general concept of PR. Similar workshops should also be made for Parliamentarians.

The workshops should also encompass key CSOs and the press. This process should also be used to build strong bridges and alliances across party lines in support to PR. The outcomes of this first step would then determine the level of support to PR in various parties which would define whether to proceed further, to take a break, or to go back on the drawing board. This step could also include a study visit to countries where PR is in operation by key leadership from various political parties.

Appendix 1

Sources and recommended readings

  • Lijphart, A.; Electoral System and Party System: A study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 1945-1990, Oxford University Press, New York, 1994).
    • Amy, Douglas J. (1993). Real Choices/New Voices: The Case for Proportional Representation Elections in the United States. Columbia University Press.
    • Denis Pilon (2007). The Politics of Voting. Edmond Montgomery Publications.
    • Colomer, Josep M. (2003). Political Institutions. Oxford University Press.
    • Colomer, Josep M., ed (2004). Handbook of Electoral System Choice. Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Jess; Mary Southcott (1998). Making Votes Count: The Case for Electoral Reform. London: Profile Books.
  • Reynolds, A., Reilly, B., Electoral system Design, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Stockholm, 1997
  • Lijphart, A., Patterns of Democracy. Government forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. New Haven and London, Yale University Press 1999Lijphart, A., Electoral System and Party System: A study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 1945-1990, Oxford University Press, New York, 1994
  • Lijphart, A., Democracies; Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Government in Twenty-One Countries, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1984
  • Reynolds, A.; Reilly, B., Electoral system Design, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Stockholm, 1997
  • LeDuc, L.; Niemi, R.G.; Norris, P.; Comparing Democracies, Sage Publications, New Delhi,1996
  • Katz, S. Richard, Electoral Reform in Italy, Modifying a Pure PR System, Center for Voting and Democracy,


  • John Hickman and Chris Little. “Seat/Vote Proportionality in Romanian and Spanish Parliamentary Elections” Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans Vol. 2, No. 2, November 2000
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NORMAL SCHOFIELD, ANDREW D. MARTIN, KEVIN M. QUINN & ANDREW B. WHITFORD, Center in Political Economy, Campus Box 1208, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, U.S.A. © 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.