Why NRM should be worried and why the opposition needs to rethink their political strategy
THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, the NRM narrowly won the elections for women MP in Hoima district. According to results, NRM’s Harriet Businge got 33,000 votes (54%) against FDC’s Asinansi Nyakato with 29,000 votes (46%). This is a major setback for NRM, which has historically won Hoima with huge margins. In 2006, the FDC candidate for Women MP in Hoima got only 15% of the votes the NRM candidate got, in 2011 only 10% and in 2016 25%. In this by election, the FDC candidate got 86% of the votes the NRM candidate got.
Yet before the opposition can celebrate, they should first look at voter turnout. Only 62,000 (43%) out of 144,000 registered voters showed up. One can say by-elections have low turnout. Yet the opposition deployed a large number of its best and most renowned politicians and activists in the district for weeks. Even the popular Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, was there. This should have bolstered voter enthusiasm but it didn’t. Why?
While NRM’s political fortunes are declining, the opposition is not inspiring much confidence. The growth in the opposition’s is far below the growth and spread of disaffection with NRM and President Yoweri Museveni. The radical extremism of the two most popular cults of the opposition – Defiance and its bastard child, People Power – has led to levels of intolerance of divergent views that most Ugandans have decided to keep away from electoral politics.
NRM continues to win elections in spite of declining support. The opposition claims this is because NRM steals their votes but fails to explain why they won Kyadondo East, Bugiri and Arua. NRM wins because of low voter turnout. In this by election the NRM candidate’s got only 23% of registered voters, 77% didn’t vote her.
Uganda’s opposition is deluded. They believe they occupy such a superior moral ground, that they are so awesome and cool, their position is so self-evidently righteous; so they do not need to win over people. They believe everyone should support them as of right because they are “liberators.” They believe, and I think correctly, that most Ugandans are frustrated with Museveni and his NRM. However, they mistake this to mean most Ugandans love them.
The fact that most people are frustrated with Museveni does not mean they would automatically support anyone who opposes him. The fact that a given woman is angry with her abusive husband does not necessarily mean she wants to quit her marriage. Even if she quit, it does not mean she is necessarily willing to marry the next suitor who comes telling her love stories.
Let us assume, just for argument’s sake, that NRM stole votes in Hoima. How does one explain 82,000 (57%) of registered voters keeping away? Is the opposition saying NRM blocked these people from the polling stations or are they ghost voters? The reason is simple: the opposition in Uganda is consumed by its own misguided sense of moral righteousness and its deluded sense of destiny that is has forgotten the interests of the people in whose name it claims to fight. This is because the opposition in Uganda is driven only by the desire for power and nothing more.