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FDC struggles without Besigye

Besigye addressing jounalists and party members at FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi.

Pundits offer party ideas on 2021 elections and Besigye’s Plan B

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Uganda’s biggest opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) will have a weak candidate on the presidency ballot in 2021, according to pundits who have spoken to The Independent.

The comments followed party Chairman Wasswa Biriggwa and Patrick Oboi Amuriat (POA), its president picking nomination forms to compete for the slot.

Many had expected FDC stalwart retired Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye to, as usual; carry the flag for FDC against President Yoweri Museveni.

But Besigye, who had kept his supporters and the public guessing about his next move on the presidency, came out on Aug.19 to announce he would not stand.

It is now evident that Museveni will contest for the presidency in 2021 without his four time challenger, Besigye, in the race.

Political commentators say Besigye’s departure leaves a big gap for FDC to fill given that, since 2001, he has built his political brand and that of FDC amongst Uganda’s voting population “around himself”.

The pundits add that Besigye’s departure gives the new political entrant, People Power/National Unity Platform leader and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a (Bobi Wine) space to compete against Museveni. Bobi Wine could also snatch the number two position that Besigye has held for two decades.

The immediate effect of Besigye’s departure is that it has thrown the FDC, which was going through internal voting process to choose a candidate who will carry its flag for the 2021 presidential elections, an added challenge.

Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a pundit on elections and democracy and lecturer at Makerere University told The Independent that FDC is facing “a dilemma which is embedded in Africa’s organisational system”.

He said it is the curse of founder members who tend to overstay and party supporters/members tend to look at individuals other than the institution.

“Besigye in one way undermined the growth of FDC party,” he said, “He was the only bull in the party.”

Ndebessa says the process of looking for a flag bearer should have been done earlier so as not to cause confusion/crisis but ensure the party members tune their mind.

Ndebesa said that Besigye’s departure might cause a crisis but, he said, if its leadership can manage the crisis and weather the storm, then the party will be strengthened.

Going ahead, Ndebessa said they need to strengthen their messages to party members that a political party is not about the individual. That the leadership should be loyal to the one who will succeed Besigye.

“Besigye should also go telling the population that they should not look at him as the solution to the problem,” he said.

He says having Biriggwa and Amuriat compete for the party’s flag bearer in an internal election confirms that FDC respects internal democracy of political parties.

For Amuriat, Ndebessa said, he has influence over the party structures where he has been going and working.

He also said the party should have a strategy to keep party members together after the party flag bearer is elected out of the two party leaders.

Sabiti Makara, a political analyst and lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University, is among those predicting that either Biriggwa or Amuriat will pull out for the other to build consensus instead of fighting themselves.

He told The Independent in an interview that with either Biriggwa or Amuriat on the ticket, FDC will not be competitive as it would be if Besigye was in the race.

He said Besigye would have been a formidable force if he had chosen to stand against Museveni for the 5th time because he has a lot of charisma and brand that can pull many people around him.

Makara said, if Besigye had remained, he would alongside Bobi Wine pull a significant number of votes from Museveni.

“I think Besigye ran out of the election because he thought it would not be a free and fair election,” Makara said, “We have to watch the space and see what happens,” he said.

“Effectively this scientific election knocks out the opposition even before they start,” he said.

Makara said that Museveni has a bigger advantage in this scientific election because he has state security demobilising the opposition and resources to move around the country campaigning.

Going forward, Makara said FDC should use this time to galvanise their support and stimulate their structures for future political engagements.

Many argue that with Biriggwa or Amuriat as FDC’s flag-bearer, Besigye’s departure will have weaken the party’s grip on the national politics.

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