The ruling party has a 22 per cent head start of the legislature ahead of the 2016 general elections, writes SULAIMAN KAKAIRE.
Of the 402 gazetted parliamentary seats in the forthcoming elections, opposition parties will not compete in 91 constituencies, key Electoral Commission data on nominations shows.
For instance, no opposition party has fielded a candidate in 51 of the 290 directly-elected parliamentary constituencies and in 40 out of the 112 women seats. In the 91 constituencies without opposition candidates, nine ruling party candidates have already been declared unopposed.
They include Thomas Tayebwa(Ruhinda North), Barnabas Tinkasiimire(Buyaga West), Jessica Ababiku (Adjumani Woman MP), Gafabusa M.R (Bwamba), Pius Wakabi (Bugahya), Mike Asiimwe (Busongora West), Margaret Baba Diri (Koboko Woman), Namoe Stella Nyomero (Napak Woman) and Justine Khainza (Bududa Woman).
The remaining 82 seats have NRM nominees competing against NRM party members who lost in the primaries. The opposition also steered clear of Bwamba, Igara West, Bugahya, Buhaguzi, Ndorwa East, Bunyangabu, Burahya county, Fort Portal, Bugabula South, Tingey, Kapchorwa, Busongora West, Buyaga East, Buyaga West, Bugangaizi East, Kiboga East, Kisoro municipality and Jie county.
Others are Buruli, Matheniko, Moroto municipality, Tapeth, Buwekula, Kibaale, Kooki, Buyamba, Adjumani West, Adjumani East, Budyebo, Mawogola North, Bbaale, Mwenge Central, Bunya East, Kongasis, Bunyole West, Dodoth East, Dodoth West, Ik, Nyabushozi, Koboko North, Labwor, Kachumbala, Upe, Kyaka South, Bulambuli, Butemba, Bukooli island, Ruhinda North and Napak.
And there are no opposition women eyeing the following district seats; Bundibugyo, Kabarole, Sheema, Napak, Kalangala, Kibaale, Kisoro, Kotido, Masindi, Moroto, Moyo, Nebbi, Adjumani, Busia, Nakasongola, Kamwenge and Kayunga.
Others are Yumbe, Nakapiripirit, Bukwo, Isingiro, Kaabong, Koboko, Abim, Buliisa, Maracha, Bududa, Bukedea, Amudat, Buikwe, Kyegegwa, Lamwo, Zombo, Buvuma, Gomba, Kiryandongo, Kyankwanzi, Luuka, Ntoroko and Butambala.
Data shows that the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has the highest number of nominated parliamentary candidates among the opposition parties. FDC has fielded candidates in 262 constituencies out of the 400 available slots. Of those, 203 are competing for direct seats while 59 are gunning for women parliamentary seats.
The Democratic Party (DP) follows closely with 103 candidates, of which 85 are competing for direct seats and 18 for women parliamentary seats. Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) has only 32 candidates while Justice Forum (Jeema) has 11. The rest of the opposition parties have less than five candidates.
SOURCE OF PROBLEM
Although failure to field candidates across the country is mainly attributed to the opposition’s failure to set up strong structures across the country, some in the opposition dispute that notion.
Appearing on Kkiriza Oba Gaana, a political talk-show on CBS FM, outgoing Makindye West MP Hussein Kyanjo said the low numbers of opposition candidates is a result of political suppression.
“It is not true that there is no political dissent in those parts but people have been suppressed and subjected to all sorts of political violence and as such some of them have chosen to stand in urban areas,” he said.
The senior member of Jeema added that opposition candidates chose to stand in urban areas because the state cannot openly harass them without attracting embarrassing media publicity.
His assertions reinforce the argument by outspoken political activist Vincent Nuwagaba. The latter claims his nomination for Ruhinda North seat was illegally blocked to leave NRM’s Thomas Tayebwa unopposed. “They [EC] refused to nominate me but there was no justification,” he said.
Ishaa Otto, the UPC secretary for mobilisation, blamed his party’s low figure on numerous legal battles between the rival presidential camps.
“We have been in legal battles with the NRM through Akena [Jimmy Akena, the Lira municipality MP]. Our candidates could not be nominated as UPC but we convinced a number of them to stand as independents,” Otto said.
Otto adds that the party had planned to field 49 candidates under The Democratic Alliance (TDA), a loose coalition of opposition political parties and democracy-seeking groupings. But that didn’t happen because TDA collapsed before it crystallised into a viable platform to promote candidates. “We hoped that this could help us get the people who should carry our flag but it did not happen,” he said.
Godber Tumushabe is an associate director at Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (Gliss), a regional policy think-tank. He said that without a sizable number of opposition candidates across the country, any successful opposition presidential candidate would find difficulty influencing legislative agenda.
Meanwhile, FDC secretary general Nathan Nandala-Mafabi said the party has negotiated alliances with independents and other opposition-friendly forces. “As far as we know, we have fielded candidates across the country because we have entered into an understanding with many independents,” he said.
Currently more than 1,000 candidates are standing as independents and in every constituency, except those with unopposed NRM members, there is an independent candidate.