The ruling by the Constitutional Court throwing “rebel NRM” MPs out of Parliament has thrown many dices in the air and both the ruling party and the opposition will be looking to picking up the seats should the Supreme Court, which the group is bound to appeal to, confirm their exit from the House.
The NRM has over the months been working on an assessment of how best to maintain the constituencies while the opposition has been working to assess the strength and vulnerabilities of each individual and how best to accommodate them in the event they were thrown out of Parliament.
Various political pundits say in light of the court ruling throwing Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga County), Mr Mohammed Ssereko (Kampala Central), Mr Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga County West) and Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) out of Parliament, only Mr Niwagaba stands a good chance of retaining his constituency in case of a by-election whether on the NRM or opposition ticket.
Overall, the assessment is: Niwagaba, Nsereko – strong; Ssekikubo – average and Tinkasiimire – weak.
The election of Mr Mohammed Nsereko as Kampala Central MP was celebrated by the NRM as a major victory in an area that has been largely hostile to the incumbent government.
The son of a prominent businessman and historical supporter of the Movement, Mr Nsereko who defeated NRM strongman Capt Francis Babu in the party primaries and went on to beat the opposition, was soon to cause headache to his party as he towed a strongly critical and independent line.
The fight won him admirers largely from opposition supporters who felt they had lost on a constituency they should have kept after incumbent MP Erias Lukwago chose to give it up in pursuit of the Lord Mayor’s seat.
Mr Nsereko was, however, later beset by personal issues which seemed to sully his reputation though to some, it was seen as blackmail from the powerful and mighty in the NRM that he discomforted.
Some assessments put his chances at 50-50 but some think he is still strong enough to retain the seat either on an opposition or independent ticket. The assessment is based largely on ability to protect the vote against the rigging machinery.
MP Mathias Mpuuga, a key strategist and brain behind pressure groups Suubi, A4C and 4GC, while confirming assessments of the four, rated both Mr Niwagaba and Mr Nsereko as strong to retain their seats in a by-election.
The Lwemiyaga MP is known to have very strong family links with President Museveni, the NRM chairman. Unlike his colleagues, Mr Ssekikubo is a third term MP having first entered Parliament soon after university in 2001.
His constituency in Ssembabule District, highly ethnically mixed and seen as rural, is heavily NRM- leaning and for an adversary, he has always had to contend with Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa from the neighbouring Mawogola Constituency.
Mr Ssekikubo’s assessment is that he has distinguished himself as a man fighting for the truth and the vulnerable people, including those of Ssembabule generally that has enabled him battle big money from opponents and that his support is based on personal loyalty, not party.
“Ssekikubo’s support is personal and we think he can leverage it to win re-election. However, it is not clear the constituency can protect his vote though we think with concerted effort, we can be able to win it back,” said a key opposition figure.
Mr Ssekikubo is unlikely to stand on an opposition party ticket because this could potentially upset many of his supporters who are loyal to the NRM.
But the NRM thinks Mr Ssekikubo has largely leveraged a personal relationship and sympathy from President Museveni and the NRM to win, and without that support think he will be easy to defeat. Besides, he has come off narrowly in the last two elections.