Museveni snd Queen Elizabeth on the left, Opposition leaders on the right
Five major opposition political parties yesterday signed a new protocol for cooperation, agreeing to field a joint presidential candidate in the 2011 general elections.
As the opposition leaders signed the protocol in Ndeeba, a Kampala suburb, Justice Minister Khiddu Makubuya formally presented a set of bills for amendments to electoral laws in Parliament.
Forum for Democratic Change president Kiiza Besigye, Ms Miria Obote of the Uganda People’s Congress, Mr Kibirige Mayanja of Justice Forum-JEEMA and Conservative Party’s Ken Lukyamuzi signed the protocol.
In the 17-page memorandum of understanding which they said was an addition to the one signed on August 5 last year, the leaders agreed that individual cooperating parties will go through their own process of selecting a flag bearer, who then will be put in a joint pool to select the joint candidate.
Opposition Party Presidents L-R Kizza Besigye Forum for Democratic Change John Ken Lukyamuzi Conservative, Miria Obote Uganda People's Congress and Kibirige Mayanja of Justice Forum raise hands as a sign of solidarity after signing the Inter Party Protocol at Pope Paul II memorial Hotel on Tuesday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE
“The IPC Electoral Affairs Committee and Summit shall by consensus select one candidate and recommend him or her to the National Conference,” reads the protocol in part.
The protocol also establishes structures for a joint National Conference of the cooperating parties in many cases going an extra mile to accommodate as many interests as possible.
The national conference for example, which will be the supreme organ of the co-operation, will comprise 50 members nominated by each party and district chairpersons of the parties. It will convene at least once a year.
Structures for appeal and arbitration have been established in the new protocol.
In the event that no consensus is reached by the IPC, the matter will be put to vote in the IPC Electoral Affairs Committee.
The opposition leaders agreed that the same procedure that will be employed in selecting a presidential candidate will be extended to parliamentary and other local grassroots elections meaning that each of the cooperating parties will not necessarily field candidates for all available seats in general local and national elections.
The parties have been working hard to muscle enough strength to check President Museveni’s hold on to power. Mr Museveni, who is certain to emerge as the ruling NRM candidate, will have been in power for 25 years in 2011.
His main challenger in the last two elections, former personal physician Dr Besigye, said the effort was not to show weakness of the individual parties but in a way acknowledged the challenge the opposition faces.
“In fact each party here can defeat Museveni’s NRM but we are here to demonstrate that we are not competing with NRM alone but a military regime,” Dr Besigye said, adding: “And 2011 will not be an election but a liberation process.”
The new protocol does not take away major challenges facing the opposition as key potential partners continued to run on the outside track. The Democratic Party for example has declined to join the cooperation and some members of the signatory parties are still unconvinced of the joint strategies.
Opposition parties first attempted to cooperate in 1996 under the Inter-Party Political Forces but the idea fell short. In 2001, a more loose alliance was built without signed MoUs while in 2006, the first multi- party election in over two decades had all parties fielding individual candidates.
But Ms Obote, who took over at the rotational IPC summit, described the new protocol as a landmark.
“This occasion today is meant to re-energise and consolidate our resolve to provide new political leadership and direction to our nation to cause positive change by the power of the people,” she said.
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