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Winning without a plan

By Independent Team

Besigye’s return could spark the self-destruction of FDC

Since Besigye defeated Muntu to win the FDC flag in the 2016 elections, the question has been why he once again was able to emerge victorious in spite of Muntu’s hard work?  Part of the explanation could be that going into the election, pressure was on Muntu and he adopted some quite unexpected strategies. However, he would have been lucky to win against Besigye. But since he defeated Muntu, pressure has shifted to Besigye. He now possibly hopes he won to be lucky this time – on his fourth attempt. Muntu, when he made his last pitch at Namboole, attempted to point the delegates into thinking critically and not emotionally about this point – about why they were voting.

“If you vote Besigye, I will be at pains to rally the party behind him because I am not sure about his plans for liberating this country.

“I have not heard any plans of how to take power from Dr. Besigye in his speech.”  The choice before the FDC delegates was plain enough. They belong to a political party that has an opponent in an election who is least popular among young, educated, urban voters.

Therefore, their correct choice of candidate should have been one who is most popular among young, educated, urban voters. But the FDC delegates disagreed when they voted Besigye on Sept.2 to be their party flag-bearer in the 2016 national presidential election.

The man FDC wants to kick out of power, President Yoweri Museveni is rated far ahead by voters on all counts according to the latest voter survey done by renowned pollsters Research World International (RWI). But, the same poll showed, Museveni is least popular among young, educated, urban voters.

If the FDC 1,043 delegates who gathered at the Mandela National Stadium in Kampala to choose a flag-bearer had opted for a candidate who is most popular in the demographic where Museveni is least popular they should have voted Muntu.

Muntu, according to the RWI poll, is more popular than Besigye among young, educated, urban voters.

These demographics rated Muntu quite highly when responding to the poll question “Who do you want to be the FDC flag bearer in the 2016 presidential election? And Why?” The main reason many of them gave for favouring Muntu is that “he is young”. It was Muntu’s main attraction at 21%. Those polled also rated him highly on being “likeable” 14%, “strong and courageous” 14%, and “honest man” 14%.

Besigye, on the other hand scored strongest on being “a strong and courageous man” at 16%, “ability to represent people’s views” at 15%, and the “need to change the government” at 14%. On likeability, Besigye scored only 7%.

Muntu’s popularity, measured even by his vote tally within FDC, has been rising since Muntu first contested again Besigye. Muntu’s vote tally, although still low, has been going up while that of Besigye has remained flat.

Muntu’s likeability as a person compared to Besigye, to some, means that given chance, he might attract more voters to his side. But some political scientists argue – some basing on years of research – that likeability as a vote winner is overrated.

However, when Barack Obama faced Mitt Romney in the 2012 US presidential election, his camp appeared buoyed by poll after poll that showed that he was ahead on likability, honesty, trust, and empathy.

It was the same in 2008, when Obama faced off with Hillary Clinton.

At one point during the Democratic presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire a reporter questioned Hillary about her low likability rating.

“What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight, who see a resume and like it but are hesitating on the likability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more?” On all occasions, Obama went on to win the election.

Therefore, if the strength of favourability for their candidate in each of the bases of both Muntu and Besigye are considered, Muntu attracts a stronger sentiment albeit only in his base.

The RWI poll got very insightful responses when it asked the question: “What are the main criteria that you will base on to make your best candidate choice for president/parliament/local council in the 2016 general elections?” The highest response was “continuity- no change” at 35% overall. But a honest candidate, fresh ideas and better policies, and strong and courageous candidate, and need for change followed closely at 27%,22%,18% and I8% respectively. These are areas where Muntu is quite strong.

Besigye better known

But when the overall response of the 174 people polled is considered, a whopping 160 say they want Besigye to be the flag-bear compare to a miserly 14 for Muntu. The question is why?

There are apparently three ways to answer this question.   The first focuses on the factors, conditions, and strategies that favoured Besigye to win. The second is to look at the purpose for which Besigye was picked. Tied to this last question is whether the FDC delegates know what their choice of Besigye as flag-bearer means for their party in the 2016 elections, and beyond.

The latter two are the more important questions. But the focus, in the early days after Besigye’s win at least, has been on why Muntu lost and why Besigye won.

Arriving at the wrong answer to this question possibly decided the outcome of Sept.02 night at Mandela stadium.

Besigye got 718 votes while Muntu managed only 289 votes. Part of the reason for this outcome could be attributed to Besigye’s invincibility within FDC. In fact, some pundits predicted an over 90% sweep of the vote. That Muntu managed to stem that down to 69% is incomprehensible to some in FDC.

“Besigye is a god in FDC,” one commentator said.

Imagine anyone getting 27% of the vote in a contest with Museveni in the NRM.

But that outcome also ties in with another revelation from the RWI poll. This time the question was: “Please let me know whether you have ever heard/seen these people Listed”. Up to 96% said they had heard/seen Besigye. Museveni scored 100% and Muntu? 76%. Besigye scores highly in all demographics, albeit a bit low at 88% in northern Uganda and 94 percent among the uneducated. Quite significantly, however, Muntu scores almost the same as Besigye among educated, young urbanites, at 98% in Kampala to Besigye’s 100%, and 91% to 99% among the educated. However, Muntu performs dismally on name recognition among the uneducated (52%) and northern Uganda (38%).  These constituencies are critical because the uneducated (no education and primary level) make up 57% of all voters. Northern Uganda meanwhile has 24% of voters. Significantly, however, for northern Uganda, the voters are the least educated, the poorest and least employed, and most likely to vote (75% most party membership, are most aware of their polling station at 94%, and the most unsure about many issues (corruption 19%, the least likely to vote at 92% and with high numbers of would be first time voters (38%). It should be noted that until the 2011 election, northern Uganda was always considered opposition FDC territory. In the RWI poll, however, only 8% identify as FDC members compared to 85% as NRM. Besigye is unlikely to change that, Muntu might have.

Besigye’s high score on name recognition is also partly attributable to his having running three-times as presidential flag-bearer of FDC. This means he has traversed the country on many occasions. Muntu is barely started.

And Muntu’s strategy has also not helped him on the name recognition front. His grassroots level mobilisation and sensitization, and long-term approach have kept most voter eyeballs off his campaign. Besigye has also not helped matters by maintaining a very high profile visible parallel campaign, in spite of handing over the FDC presidency Muntu.

One question for FDC voters: What would have happened if Besigye had thrown his weight behind Muntu? When it elected Muntu as president in 2012, it looked like Muntu’s likeability had won and FDC was finally acquiring new shoes. With the return of Besigye, it appears like it prefers to wear its old pair of socks in the new shoes. Something is bound to stink.

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