So the rigging here is largely because his support is very strong, the opposition is almost absent. Given the difference in votes between Museveni and his nearest rival, such rigging is statistically insignificant. Indeed where and when the opposition have had such strong support, they too have rigged. In 2001, there were 1,024 polling stations in northern Uganda with more than 90% voter turnout, and Besigye got more than 90%, in some even 98% of the vote. Such abnormal turnout and voting pattern is a proxy for rigging.
So opposition activists have been circulating videos showing people pre ticking ballots for Museveni supervised by soldiers speaking Runyankore. It is very possible that these videos were stage-managed by the same opposition activists. It seems they intended to use social media to circulate these videos in order to create an impression of massive rigging, hence government shutdown social media. Why would Museveni diehards video record themselves doing such rigging?
If there was pre ticking of ballots, it had little influence on the final outcome. In 2016, Bundibugyo District had 99,000 registered voters of whom 76,000 (77%) voted. Museveni got 61,000 votes (86%), Besigye got 9,000 (12.6%). In 2021, Bundibugyo had 113,000 registered voters and only 74,000 (65%) voted. Museveni got 52,000 (73%) while Bobi Wine got 18,000 (25%). The absolute number of voter turnout declined, the percentage even more. Is this evidence of massive pre ticking of ballots?
In Kamuli with 200,000 registered voters in 2016, 130,000 (65%) voted. Museveni got 84,000 votes (68%), Besigye 34,000 (28%). In 2021 and 236,000 registered voters, 132,000 (56%) voted. Museveni’s vote count fell by 27,000 to 57,000 (45%) against Bobi Wine’s 65,000 (51%). What did NUP have in Kamuli to stop rigging? This pattern can be found in Luwero, Kisoro, Kiboga, Ntungamo, Kaseese, Kitgum, Ibanda, Mityana, Adjumani, Maracha, Kanungu, Zombo, Koboko, Gulu, Yumbe, Busia, Masaka, etc.
I have gone through over 60 districts in all regions. Voter turnout was lower in 2021 than in 2016 in percentage terms. In many districts, even with increased number of registered voters, the absolute number of people turning out to vote was lower. If there were massive pre ticking of ballots it would have driven up voter turnout.
There was one loud message in this election both the NRM and the president need to take home seriously: Ugandans are tired of Museveni. In this election he faced a new comer, young with a reputation as a weed-smoking Rastafarian singer who did not look presidential and was totally clueless on public policy. Many voters (43%) did not vote. So there was no growth in Museveni’s total vote in spite of an increase in the voter register of 3.2 million voters.
There was also a big message for NUP and its candidate, Bobi Wine. Voters felt he is not presidential. Even in his Buganda ethnic base, voter turnout was low. In Kampala, only 42% voted, down from 51% in 2016 when opposition blamed delayed delivery of ballot papers. I don’t know what excuse will be advanced this time given that security deployments were similar. Luwero fell from 66% to 59%. Kiboga from 69% to 61%. Mityana from 74% to 66%.
The key to Museveni’s victories is in voter turnout. Vast numbers of Ugandans opt out of voting due to the radical extremist stance of opposition politicians. In trying to please its extremist base, the opposition has alienated the moderates, and thereby sustaining enthusiasm but not growing their numbers. That is why in spite of an increase in voter registration by 3.2 million, all of who are young people, Bobi Wine got less votes than Besigye in 2016.