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The race to State House heats up

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th December 2005 03:00 AM

AT long last, the race to State House has kicked off in earnest with the nomination of the six candidates: the incumbent President Museveni running on the NRM ticket, Col. Dr Kizza Besigye for the Forum for Democratic Change, John Ssebaana Kizito, the DP president general, Miria Kalule Obote, the UP

AT long last, the race to State House has kicked off in earnest with the nomination of the six candidates: the incumbent President Museveni running on the NRM ticket, Col. Dr Kizza Besigye for the Forum for Democratic Change, John Ssebaana Kizito, the DP president general, Miria Kalule Obote, the UP

By John Kakande

AT long last, the race to State House has kicked off in earnest with the nomination of the six candidates: the incumbent President Museveni running on the NRM ticket, Col. Dr Kizza Besigye for the Forum for Democratic Change, John Ssebaana Kizito, the DP president general, Miria Kalule Obote, the UPC chief, ex-mayor Nasser Sebaggala and Dr Abed Bwanika.

It is not surprising that former External Security Organisation (ESO) chief David Pulkol was among the scores of individuals who failed to secure space on the presidential ballot. Hitherto, Pulkol has been considered a very strong political mobiliser. When he teamed up with Nasser Sebaggala and MP Michael Mabikke and Latif Ssebaggala in March this year to form a pressure group called ‘Forces for Change’, I warned that he was risking being consigned to political oblivion.

When Pulkol and his Forces for Change tried to organise their ‘Operation Knock Out Kisanja’ demonstration, it was a complete flop. I believe it was a blunder for Pulkol to join the peripheral Progressive Alliance Party (PAP).

The problem with Pulkol and many young politicians is that they are too ambitious. Pulkol wanted to be the FDC president. When his bid to become FDC chief flopped, he then joined PAP. Pulkol’s failure to get nominated has dealt a big blow to his political career. His political clout has also been trimmed.

The fact that there are five candidates standing against President Museveni shows that the opposition is split and fragmented. Ideally the six main political parties – FDC, DP, UPC, CP, Justice Forum and the Free Movement (a pressure group), the so called G6, would have fielded a joint candidate. Although there is still a possibility of the G6 joining and backing one candidate, it appears very unlikely.

What could instead happen is that one or both independent candidates could eventually opt to join forces with the leading candidates – Museveni or Besigye.

In the 2001 presidential elections, seven presidential candidates were nominated – Museveni, Besigye, Aggrey Awori, Kibirige Mayanja, Francis Bwengye, Karuhanga Chapaa and Ssenkubuge ‘Siasa’. Later Ssenkubuge withdrew in favour of Museveni.

Why have the G6 failed to come up with a joint candidate? Why has the opposition failed to forge a strong alliance? First, the arrest of Col. Besigye made it difficult for the opposition to negotiate and agree on a joint candidate. The arrest scuttled the talks on joint candidate.

Besigye was the leading proponent of the idea of the opposition fielding a joint candidate. He argued that anyone in the opposition against the joint opposition candidate would be a traitor. His arrest, however, has made it difficult for him to negotiate with his counterparts in the G6.

There is also strong opposition to joint candidate in both DP and UPC. True, Ssebaana and former party boss Paul Ssemogerere may not be totally against the idea, but there are many in DP who don’t believe it is a good idea.

The opponents fear that if DP supported a candidate from another party, for example FDC, it would erode its base. They argue that many DP supporters who supported Besigye in 2001 ended up joining Reform Agenda and subsequently FDC.

The defection of DP Members of Parliament, Kassiano Wadri, Prof. Latigo Ogenga and Odonga Otto to the FDC must have undermined the relationship between the two parties. Note that the new DP secretary general, Prof. Ebil Ottoo, has declared he will contest against Prof. Latigo Ogenga for the Agago parliamentary seat.

Furthermore, since this is the first multiparty election in 20 years, each of the three political parties is trying to emerge as the vanguard of the opposition.

What is the strongest opposition party? If DP or UPC were to back Col. Besigye, they would in effect be conceding that FDC is the strongest opposition party.

Neither DP nor UPC is prepared to give in without a fight. For DP and FDC, the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections are very crucial. Both NRM and FDC are post-1980 political forces.

DP and UPC aren’t only fighting to capture state power; they are also fighting to regain ground they have lost both to NRM and FDC over the past 20 years. This makes it difficult for them to back a joint presidential candidate fielded by FDC.

jkakande@newvision.co.ug

The race to State House heats up

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