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Can the opposition form a winning coalition?

By Vision Reporter

Added 9th March 2004 03:00 AM

Opposition political groups have to reposition themselves this year. Political actions aimed at influencing the much-awaited transition of power in 2006 will either be accomplished or initiated this year. If opposition political groups will ever have a coalition, they should form it this year.

Opposition political groups have to reposition themselves this year. Political actions aimed at influencing the much-awaited transition of power in 2006 will either be accomplished or initiated this year. If opposition political groups will ever have a coalition, they should form it this year.

By Asuman Bisiika

Opposition political groups have to reposition themselves this year. Political actions aimed at influencing the much-awaited transition of power in 2006 will either be accomplished or initiated this year. If opposition political groups will ever have a coalition, they should form it this year.

An arrangement this year would give the coalition partners some time to rally the population around policy issues as opposed to the exclusive objective of getting to power.

A hastily formed coalition towards the 2006 elections would not enable the coalition to mobilise around policy issues thereby playing into the hands of the movement who would argue that they lacks policies on which to run the country.

The Ugandan opposition can draw some lessons from their Kenyan counterparts. Rallying on the wave of popular discontent with the ruling Kenya Africa National Union (KANU), opposition groups in Kenya formed a coalition that was later to defeat KANU in the historic elections of December 2002.

However, unlike Kenya whose the government was very unpopular at home and abroad, the movement government still enjoy a residual popularity capable of winning a simple majority of votes and the sympathy of the international community. So, even when the opposition has formed a coalition, they would still face the uphill task of challenging a still-popular ruling party with all the advantages of incumbency.

Political coalitions in Uganda have generally been failures. From the infamous UPC-KY coalition of the early sixties, through to the UNLF and the 1996 IPFC, the history of political coalitions in Uganda is ominous for new ones. It should be noted that all the failed coalitions were cobbled together with the exclusive objective to win power not a shared policy vision.

Although earlier coalitions have failed, opposition groups are now calling for a coalition more than ever before. An attempt to strengthen the co-operation between seven political groups (known as G7) has indeed been floated. However, it seems the only thing the G7 have in common is government’s invitation to develop a national consensus for the 2006 transition.

Peter Walubiri of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) says that different people are viewing the proposed coalition differently.

“Some people want a coalition to fight for the freedom of the parties while others perceive the coalition in terms of electioneering and accessing national leadership positions. It is true we differ on the outlook and purpose of the coalition,” says Walubiri.

DP prefers to have a co-operation as opposed to a coalition with structures. Joseph Balikudembe, DP lawyer says that they are actually not opposed to the principle of a coalition. “DP would like to first reorganise itself, revive its structures and enter a coalition as a quantifiable entity,” says Balikudembe.

Balikudembe says there is also a need to weigh the strengths of the partners of the coalition. “This would enable the partners to appreciate each other’s interests.

Anyway, the point is: whereas we appreciate the principle of a coalition, we still think it would be ill-advised on the part of DP to enter a coalition now,” he says.

Walubiri says that the coalition’s main objective now would be to dismantle the movement. “So, the issue of strengths does not arise now. We can only talk of our strengths when we have free access to the voters. The prospect of taking leadership positions should not blind us from the fight to free our political parties from the bondage of the movement system,” says Walubiri.

Hussein Kyanjo of Justice Forum says that a coalition is very necessary and whether DP is reluctant to join it or not is immaterial. “DP formed the pre-independence government, but a coalition of the opposition defeated it in the next elections. UPC’s first government banned political parties, but the army toppled it. DP won the 1980 elections, but it could not form a government. UPC formed a government after the 1980 elections, but the army toppled it. Today, the movement that claims to have won the 2001 elections is holding talks with opposition political groups. It means political groups have to co-operate,” said Kyanjo.

Can the opposition form a winning coalition?

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