Online political participation and electoral democracy in Uganda

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Kampala International University, College of Humanities and social Science
Globally, Electoral Democracy is one of the cornerstones of democracy that without free, inclusive, fair, transparent, open, credible elections being conducted, representation of the people cannot be achieved. However, Uganda’s General elections have had limited access to traditional media, limited voter education, non- engagement of the diasporas and prisoners in voting, limited conduct of physical political rallies, have inhibited electoral stakeholders from engaging in fair elections. Therefore, the ability of internet use in elections to reduce/address these issues prompted the need to conduct a study on whether internet use in elections in Uganda will contribute towards a fair election. Anchored on Uses Gratification theory and General Systems Theory, this study investigated how Online Political Participation (E- Enabling, E- Engaging and E- Empowering) can promote Electoral Democracy in Kampala(Central), Mbarara (Western), Gulu (Northern) and Jinja districts/ cities(Eastern region) in Uganda. Convergent parallel mixed methods design and Descriptive Co-relational Survey design were utilized on a sample of N= 472 respondents. Statistical Package for Social Scientists was used to analyze the quantitative data while thematic analysis was used under qualitative data analysis. Findings indicate that E- Engaging with R-value = .518, and P value = .000; E- Engaging with R-value = .547 and P value = .000 and E- Empowering with R-value = .653 and P value = .000 were strongly related with Electoral Democracy. Multivariate model established that E- Enabling (Beta value of 0.52) and P value of 0.000, E- Engaging (Beta value of 0.55 and P value of 0.000), and E- Empowering (Beta value of 0.65 and P value of 0.000) had a significant impact on Electoral Democracy. However, there was a significant difference in levels of Electoral Democracy by Age with (F value = 3.14 and P value of 0.025), and specific district/ place of residence with an (F value = 11.61 and P value of 0.000). Providing platforms like fair electoral policies and guidelines to enable people freely adopt and utilize internet in elections through free social media, free/ low cost internet, good nationwide network, minimizing internet shut downs for all electoral stakeholders can enable people freely express themselves and actively engage in entire electoral process with fairness, transparency and accountability will ultimately promote Electoral democracy.
A dissertation submitted to the college of humanities and social sciences and the directorate of higher degrees and research in partial fulfilment for the award of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public management
Online political participation, Electoral democracy, Uganda