YESTERDAY was nomination day in Uganda Some of those aspiring for the highest office in the land presented their credentials to the Electoral Commission (EC) at Mandela National Stadium Namboole.
Four aspirants – Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Bidandi Ssali of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) and Norbert Mao of the Democratic Party (DP) are now officially presidential candidates.
Candidate Museveni was the first to be nominated at 10:00am and thereafter addressed a mammoth crowd of his supporters at Kololo Airstrip.
The rest—Dr. Abed Bwanika of the People’s Development Party (PDP), Beti Kamya of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) and Dr. Olara Otunnu of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) are expected to be nominated today, bringing to seven the number of candidates.
It will also be a confirmation that the other 46 aspirants who picked nomination forms were simply trying to remind us that no matter how serious life may be, there is always a humorous side to it after all. With 53 people picking forms, there was a danger of reducing the presidential race to a comedy of sorts. There should be a limit to how far democracy can go.
In particular, the office of President must be given the respect it deserves, so that people recognize the high responsibility it carries. As people rightly put it a decade or so ago, the presidency is not about having fun; it is carrying a grinding stone – olubengo.
The huge traffic jam that engulfed the city (thanks in part to numerous diversions of traffic to enable presidential aspirants get to Namboole without much ado) was a bad idea and a huge bother alright; but maybe it was just as well that a fitting statement was made, drawing attention to all and sundry that something extraordinary was afoot.
These two days of nominations are another testimony democracy reigns in Uganda and that power belongs to the people. With more than nine million registered voters on the NRM members register (three million of whom are party officials spread all over the country), the ruling party can safely talk about more than half of the 15 million-strong national voters register already in the bag, at least for the presidency.
Since all that a candidate needs to win the presidency is a vote more than half of the ballots cast, we can safely talk about an assured victory for Candidate Museveni.
What remains is to have him persuade the remaining voters to his side to remove any shadow of doubt. The other task for the NRM as a party will be to translate the huge support enjoyed at presidential level to support for the party’s parliamentary and local government candidates.
Already the party enjoys more than two-thirds majority in Parliament and more than 80 per cent of the local governments. And for good measure the party had already signed memoranda of understanding with most of the independent MPs and LC 5 chairpersons. Most of these later agreed to contest on the NRM ticket in their various constituencies. This gives the NRM a huge headstart over all its other rivals put together.
In addition, the headstart is helped by the fact that the NRM is the only party with 100 per cent presence in every constituency at all levels of competition in this race. The other parties are struggling to come up with candidates in most of the constituencies for the simple reason that they have neither grassroots support nor structures countrywide.
For most of these parties, the few areas they managed to raise candidates, they had no primaries to talk about and their flagbearers sailed through without anybody to oppose them. These are hardly a threat.
The fragmentation and general weakness of the opposition are some of the other key factors working in NRM’s favour. Fragmentation in the sense that the opposition vote – which has never been much by the way - may well be divided among six candidates.
The NRM has done enough to secure its nearly 60 percent vote in the last election and even venture into unchartered waters (the young people better known as the Museveni generation because they were born after 1986 and most are new voters).
Furthermore, the party has addressed the causes of its poor performance in northern and eastern Uganda and should be able to win back lost support in these areas.
The weakness of the opposition should further be seen in the lack of internal cohesion which means most of the parties are suffering from internal strife. Besides, the so-called Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) that was expected to breathe down NRM’s neck was greatly weakened by the exit of DP and UPC.
With a divided and disorganised opposition, the road to victory for Candidate Museveni is straight and smooth; a done deal.