The things opposition parties should ignore and those they need to focus on to have a chance in 2021
THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The opinion poll by Research World International (RWI) found Kyadondo East Member of Parliament (MP) Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine (at 22%) far ahead of long-standing opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye (at 13%). President Yoweri Museveni led the pack with 32%, but far below the 50% plus one he needs to win a first round. While this may be great for Bobi Wine, it has potential to be a risk to the opposition chances of beating Museveni in 2021. I will return to this subject towards the end of this article.
I am frustrated that opposition activists consistently spend most of their time complaining about how unfair the electoral process is. They have devoted most if their efforts in pushing for electoral reforms and changing of the composition of the Electoral Commission (EC). Indeed, in the opinion poll, 88% of opposition supporters said they do not trust the EC, while 45% of all respondents agreed with them, 43% trust the EC.
I think focusing on the EC is misguided and hides the real challenge of the opposition.
This article is, therefore, a dialogue with the opposition leaders and activists on how they can do better. It is advice they hate but which they need.
It makes little sense to expend your energies on a struggle – like disbanding the EC and changing the electoral laws – you have little chance of winning. The NRM has an overwhelming majority in parliament to block any serious electoral reform legislation. Museveni is not going to change the EC if that creates risks for him to lose power. It makes little sense to fight over what you have no control over.
The opposition should devote most of their effort on things that are under their direct control. They need to recognise that it is difficult, if not impossible, for the NRM to steal elections at the EC tallying center.
Most (if not all) of the rigging happens at the polling station and is largely through stuffing ballot boxes. This happens where the opposition has little or no presence during the balloting and counting of votes, itself a sign of opposition numerical weakness.
Yet I also think rigging is the least of the problems facing the opposition in Uganda; the real challenge is voter turnout; a factor that needs high levels of organisation to overcome.
But let us deal with vote rigging first: to monitor polling effectively, the opposition has to ensure it has polling agents at every polling station.
NRM can thwart this by either planting operatives as opposition polling agents or buyoff opposition agents to become complicit in the rigging on polling day.
To neutralize this threat, the opposition needs to have at least 20 polling agents at every polling station. This requires high level of organisational capacity which the opposition needs to build.