Daily Monitor | Election Report 2016 | The Three-Horse Race — By Timothy Kalyegira

Posted February 7, 2016 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in The Roadmap to 2016 ~ 2,998 views



This week we start the first of two reports looking back at the 2015-2016 general election campaign season. Most of the national and international attention, obviously, was focused on the presidential race. The stakes are high not just for Uganda but for the region.

Uganda has a peace-keeping army presence in Somalia, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and a pivotal foreign policy role in the unstable Burundi. The little peace there is in the first three countries is largely because of Ugandan troops.

Should Uganda erupt into similar chaos, apart from one more African country going up in flames, the countries in which Ugandan troops are deployed would almost certainly see fragile ceasefires collapse, and all-out civil war would resume.

The FDC presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, whose fortunes had been perceived as in decline between 2013 and 2015, has made a remarkable comeback onto the national stage for this, his fourth attempt at the presidency.
Besigye, against all expectations, has been drawing large and ever-increasing campaign crowds wherever he goes, in district after district.

Political analysts and the media had felt that with the Ugandan public sinking further and further into a state of apathy and resignation, there was no way they would have given Besigye a fourth chance.

Public’s contributions
Instead, what started in parts of western Uganda like Ishaka – with Besigye’s supporters spontaneously offering him bank notes of Shs1,000, Shs2,000, Shs5,000 – became a feature of his campaign stops.

By the beginning of 2016, the public’s contributions to Besigye now included goats, roasted meat, furniture, sheep, money of course, and anything of value by which they could express their support.

Just when the Fort Portal crowd that greeted him seemed to have set a new record, the crowd that turned up to meet Besigye in Masaka set a new record — only for the crowd in Mbarara to eclipse the other two.

Besigye, it is now clear, is the national symbol for an accumulating degree of frustration with everything that is life for the ordinary Ugandan today – declining retail sales, rising school fees, endemic youth unemployment, poor public infrastructure and fatigue with news about rampant corruption. Besigye is more a national than an FDC flag bearer.

At no time in the last 35 years has anything like this happened to a national political leader. Besigye is now more popular than he was when he first contested in 2001 and even more than he was in early 2006 when public sympathy over his jailing was at its peak.

He has single-handedly helped reverse the apathy that pervaded the country and the Electoral Commission and civic groups like the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), owe Besigye their gratitude for easing their work. President Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent, has not been complacent either.

He has campaigned rigorously across the country and sometimes soon after attending regional heads of state summits, has plunged right back into the district where he last was before travelling out of the country.

If the widespread assumption that the Museveni state machinery is going to rig the elections is true, then the hectic campaigns by the Museveni team do not indicate that. The social media campaign by the Museveni camp has been among the most visible and consistent of the presidential candidates, alongside that of the Besigye camp.

The high streets of almost all towns in the country are pasted with the yellow campaign posters of Museveni. His rallies are well-attended, regardless of the questions being raised about the legitimacy of the numbers or the composition of the crowds.

The third major presidential campaign, that of the Independent “Go Forward” candidate and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi has on balance performed much better than expected. Initially, there had been assumptions that Mbabazi was one of those closeted and privileged figures who were made by Museveni and who, once they step out of Museveni’s shadow, fade away, unable to flourish independently of Museveni.

Some of this view was confirmed in the 2011 candidacy of the former NRM minister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, in the late 1990s described by political commentators as a “king maker”. As the candidate of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bidandi Ssali had a generally insignificant impact on the campaign trail.

Mbabazi, on the other hand, showed he not only could take on Museveni in terms of the size of his campaign crowds but, often pictured wearing green gumboots and mingling with ordinary peasants in the villages, he also showed he was as down-to-earth as any populist national leader could be.

If we were to assume, for the sake of argument and based on recent disputed opinion polls that Mbabazi lies in third place in this three-man presidential race, then Mbabazi is the strongest third horse in Uganda’s election history, stronger than Yoweri Museveni was in 1980, Muhammad Kibirige Mayanja in 1996 and Norbert Mao in 2011.

If the rumours are true that the Museveni camp has been inflating its campaign crowds by ferrying in villagers and school children to venues, then it would appear that in terms of ranking, it is Besigye at number one and possibly a tie between Museveni and Mbabazi in second place.

This is what is going to make the February 18, election that much more interesting and the aftermath that much more uncertain. There has been enough intimidation by the State and its agents for Besigye and Mbabazi to make a valid point about the election not being free and fair.

Even the Western media and diplomatic community that usually tend to be naïve when it comes to understanding African elections, this time make no bones about reporting the widespread and open voter bribery, intimidation and arrest of Opposition supporters and harassment of the leading Opposition candidates.

It will not be just another case of sour losing were Mbabazi and Besigye to resort to the courts of law to challenge the final official results or reject them altogether. Many observers and media analysts think that this is precisely what is going to follow the election.

If, as various military commanders, State officials and police chiefs have been threatening, the State moves in to smash any post-election protests, that could in turn create a whole new set of circumstances whose end result nobody can as yet predict.
Facebook: Kampala Express

Source — Daily Monitor Election Coverage.

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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