Political analysts consider options for the new National Unity Platform
Kampala, Uganda | MUBATSI ASINJA HABATI | Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi’s aka Bobi Wine has been clearing hurdles in the way of his presidential bid in 2021. His latest move was on July 22 when he announced that his People Power political pressure group had merged with a little-known political party, the National Unity Platform (NUP).
This merger, political observers say, was influenced by the whispers that the ruling NRM party led by President Yoweri Museveni was mooting ways to bar Kyagulanyi, as head of a pressure group, and other People Power candidates from being nominated for election.
The argument was that since Uganda is under multiparty democracy, they could only contest as independents. So Bobi Wine’s rush to assume the presidency of NUP was aimed at jumping this hurdle.
Veteran politician and leading FDC ideology, Augustine Ruzindana, says unveiling a political party eroded some of Kyagulanyi’s popularity. He says Kyagulanyi has now fully mutated from Bobi Wine, the musician to become a politician.
“NUP will erode the volunteer mobilising appeal that People Power had as the Bobi Wine fans will become supporters,” he says.
But Makerere University professor of History Mwambutsya Ndebesa says it was likely People Power was not going to be allowed to register as a party. If it remained a movement and Robert Kyagulanyi stood as an independent he would have been given a symbol by the Electoral Commission, either way there would a brand challenge.
“In my opinion he chose a lesser evil,” Ndebesa says.
Kyagulanyi’s entry into elective politics has continued to draw excitement; especially among urban voters, who think he is a fresh breath in the opposition politics.
Through his People Power pressure group, Kyagulanyi showed his muscle when he successfully backed a few MPs to win by-elections. He has also made a mark on student politics, with many student guild leaders at universities winning elections under the People Power flag.
Armed with the confidence from these electoral victories, Bobi Wine has aimed his political gun on becoming the president of Uganda.
Riding on his popularity as a music star turned politician, Kyagulanyi has attracted both genuine believers in need for political change in the country and opportunistic politicians who are falling over themselves to become parliamentary and district candidates on the Bobi Wine shoulders.
As the traditional opposition political parties like Democratic Party (DP) and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) are pre-occupied with cooling the internal party bickering and confusion, Bobi Wine is stealing the show. As he enjoys his 11 minutes of fame, Bobi Wine himself is determined to appear on the 2021 presidential ballot.
Tough times ahead
Many politicians and analysts who have spoken to the Independent since Kyagulanyi unveiled his party say, his promise to defeat Museveni in the 2021 elections will be tough to fulfill.
Basing on the history of the past few elections, they the electric excitement that Bobi Wine is causing in urban centres and on social media channels, can be likened to that caused by another opposition politician, Dr. Kizza Besigye’s return from self-imposed exile ahead of the 2006 elections. Besigye had contested in the earlier 2001 elections and lost to Museveni. In 2006, he was vowing that Museveni would go. Many excited voters believed him.
The excitement died when the Electoral Commission announced President Yoweri Museveni as winner. Besigye challenged Museveni’s victory in the Supreme Court but Museveni’s victory was upheld.
Some people point at that to say it is clear President Museveni is staying put. That there is greater likelihood that he will be voted into office in the 2021 elections as he has already picked his NRM party’s nomination forms as the sole presidential candidate.
Political analysts argue that the Coronavirus pandemic will give Museveni a bigger advantage over his opponents since the Electoral Commission has already announced that election campaigns will be conducted mainly on radio and television stations and other online media platforms. Most of the hundreds of radio and television stations are aligned to the NRM party which is controlled by Museveni. Already the opposition politicians are crying foul and are objecting the so-called scientific campaigns.
Museveni has said that the elections have to go on, and parliament appears to have no spine to amend the Constitution to pause the five year term for all elective offices. This stance leaves, Bobi Wine and his opposition groups with no choice but participate in the 2021 scientific election.
Some analysts are suggesting that instead of Bobi Wine and perhaps the opposition escorting Museveni in the 2021 election, they could consider other strategies.
Kyagulanyi could use his star power to rally voters for himself. But focus on just ensuring his victory would be a waste if Museveni wins.
Kyagulanyi could use his star power to campaign for himself but also others such as MP and local level candidates allied to his party. This could ensure that even if Kyagulanyi loses the presidential election, his party has most MPs and dominates the opposition including choosing the Leader of opposition in Parliament.
Peter Magelah, a lawyer and political observer, believes that Kyagulangi is strategising to have his party capture the leadership of opposition in parliament.