Results from last week’s controversial elections show that while Kizza Besigye, the main opposition candidate, gained, opposition parties lost ground to the ruling National Resistance Movement, writes SULAIMAN KAKAIRE.
According to results 26,223 polling stations announced by the Electoral Commission last Saturday, FDC presidential candidate Kizza Besigye got at least 1.2 million votes more than his tally for 2011, while President Museven’i’s tally rose by about 200,000.
However, Besigye’s resurgence did not correspond with support for political parties challenging the NRM dominance. In the 309 parliamentary constituencies where opposition political parties fielded candidates, only 54 candidates won. It means the opposition will have seven MPs fewer in the 10th parliament than it has in the 9th.
By contrast, the NRM MPs have increased from 238 to 268 legislators. Independent candidates took up 47 seats.
The 10th Parliament will have 458 seats, up from 386 in the Ninth. This figure includes special-interest groups MPs representing the army, people with disabilities, workers, youths and women.
Preliminary figures show that the opposition comprise of only three leading parties (FDC, DP and UPC), unlike in the 9th Parliament where Justice Forum (Jeema) and Conservative Party (CP) had one MP each.
FDC WINGS CLIPPED
Provisionally, FDC, remains the leading opposition party, having won 31 seats out of the 262 for which it fielded candidates. In the outgoing parliament, FDC has 34 seats.
FDC lost most political ground to NRM in eastern Uganda. Out of the 17 parliamentary seats previously held by FDC, it managed to retain only six seats. They include Budadiri West (Nathan Nandala-Mafabi), Mbale Municipality (Jack Wamai Wamanga), Bugweri (Abdu Katuntu), Kasilo (Elijah Okupa), (Soroti Woman) Angellina Ossege and Soroti municipality (Edmond Ariko).
Speaking to The Observer yesterday, Alice Alaso, the FDC vice president for Eastern Uganda, explained that the loss of the FDC at parliamentary level was not due to FDC’s waning support but the resistance it faced from the state machinery.
“Our supporters were tortured, beaten and killed by the state institutions including the military and police. This was done where the use of money could not work,” said Alaso, who lost the Serere Woman MP seat to NRM’s Hellen Adoa.
Alaso narrated that what the opposition was up against in Teso sub-region, for instance, was not just the ruling party but a combined force of the state machinery.
“When the campaigns started, there was a whole battalion of the army that was deployed here. But, a week to the end of the campaigns, another contingent was sent in. This army did not only intimidate our supporters, but they physically tortured opposition supporters,” she said.
Alaso added that her supporter Dennis Eyoru was killed on the eve to the election, and also spoke of pre-ticked ballots.
“We have evidence of a car from the ministry of gender that carried the pre-ticked ballots. This car moved with boxes of pre-ticked ballots and we could not do much as people. We raised alarm to the electoral commission but no one came to our help,” she said.
Alaso says that in some polling stations, the army took over the role of electoral commission by counting votes. “The army counted results in the polling stations of Kakus, Kamurojo, Omagoro, Mamanga and Aojabule. While at Sapir polling station, from the declaration forms I defeated my opponent with 198 votes but results indicate that I had zero,” she said.
In an interview with The Observer on Monday, Ofwono Opondo, NRM deputy spokesperson scorned at the opposition for thinking that it could not gain strength in parliament because of rigging.
“How did the other opposition members who won seats win? Do Alaso and Musumba want to tell me that the FDC MPs who defeated ministers Jim Muhwezi, Alex Onzima and Fred Omach rigged to defeat them? Opposition must put its house in order,” Opondo said.
Indeed, FDC was undone in some parts of Teso by infighting within opposition ranks. For instance, Alaso was at loggerheads with the party secretary general, Nandala-Mafabi, who she had earlier accused of fronting a candidate against her in the party primaries.
FDC only retained Bugweri county out of the three parliamentary seats previously held by the opposition in Busoga sub-region. Although the region is perceived as predominantly NRM, FDC had anticipated that during this electoral season, it would win more seats in the districts of Bugiri, Jinja and Iganga.
Explaining FDC’s dismal performance in Busoga sub-region, Proscovia Salaamu Musumba said that the opposition could not perform well in the region because of the patronage politics.
“For one to win an election in Busoga, you needed to have a bank or the army. In Kamuli, for instance, the [Parliament] Speaker [Rebecca Kadaga] used her patronage network to defeat me in Kamuli municipality. She fought me and I did not know that Kamuli district is a private property of the speaker,” Musumba said.
Still, Musumba claimed that there is improvement in people’s attitudes towards the opposition.
“If people in deep Busoga, in areas like Nawandyo can vote 62 to 80 votes in favour Museveni, or Namwendwa 141 to 235 votes in favour... this is an improvement and I think that if we work on the cultural orientation of our people from being conformists, then we can do better,” she said.
Another former FDC stronghold that seemed to have given the opposition party a raw deal is the West Nile sub-region. Out of the five parliamentary slots previously held by FDC, they managed to win only three: Obongi, Jonam and Maracha East.
According to Terego MP Eziat Kassiano Wadri, the chief coordinator of FDC campaigns in the region, the ruling party used “money and pre-ticked ballots” to wrestle seats from the opposition.
“For those supporters who endured, they were tortured,” said Wadri, who lost his seat to NRM.
Opondo, however, argued that if the opposition could not field a candidate in 91 slots across the country, then there is no way they could have performed better than the ruling party which had candidates for all the seats.
“They do not have individual leaders with charisma and they are not organised; [some of them] did not have primaries through which they can get such leaders,” he said.
On its part, the Democratic Party (DP), which is the country’s oldest party, could not improve on the number of parliamentary seats held. Out of the 103 seats where DP fielded candidates, it managed to win only 16 seats, compared to 14 that it has in the outgoing Parliament.
Explaining the performance of DP, Butambala MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi said the party’s internal problems exacerbated its vulnerability in the polls.
“DP as a party has to re-organise and put its house in order. For instance, we went to the polls when part of our members had gone separate ways due to the internal problems within the party. Even those who won on DP ticket are not hard-core supporters; they are considered as rebels,” explained Muwanga.
He reasoned that if DP had gone to the polls with its splinter group headed by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, it could have gained much more support ahead of this election.
“This is how we lost Kawempe North, Lubaga North, and Lubaga South among others,” he said. Kawempe North, Lubaga North and Lubaga South were won by DP-leaning independents associated to Lukwago.
Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) representation in the House has declined from 11 seats to seven. UPC fielded 32 candidates out of over 400 slots. Speaking to The Observer on Monday, Ishaa Otto, the UPC secretary for mobilisation, told us that the internal weaknesses within the party affected its performances.
“It is true that like the rest of the opposition, we were fighting with the state machinery but the Akena-Otunnu fights made it impossible for us to go to the polls as an organised front,” he said.
Otto further argued that owing to the internal divisions within the UPC, few voters could trust its candidates.
“Voters are rational,” he said. “UPC as a party could not promote a candidate. Instead, for those who won on the party platform, [they] won based on [the party’s] past legacy.”