A push by NRM legislators to have President Museveni seek re-election in 2016 is supported by 54 per cent of Ugandans, a new opinion poll reveals.
According to results of a political opinion poll commissioned by the Daily Monitor and the Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, 33 per cent of Ugandans are opposed to another run by Mr Museveni while 13 per cent said they “don’t know”.
Respondents were asked the question, “Should President Museveni contest again to be President of Uganda in 2016?”
The survey was conducted by Research World International, a research firm, between April 15-17, 2014, in four major regions of the country; east, west, north and central. A total of 2,142 respondents were sampled with 54 per cent of them female.
Mr Museveni has been president since 1986—and he will mark 30 years in power when his current term ends in 2016. Parliament in 2005 amended the Constitution to allow Mr Museveni run again after he was left with one year of what was then the last of his mandatory two terms.
According to the poll whose findings were published yesterday, western Uganda tops in the support for a Museveni re-election with 67 per cent support followed by eastern (52 per cent), northern (51 per cent) and central 44 per cent.
Social classes’ take
In terms of social class, however, the wealthy, well-to-do and highly educated Ugandans oppose the idea of President Museveni standing again. Sixty-one per cent of the AB class and 58 per cent of C1 class are opposed to a Museveni re-election. But the President has more backing from the low-class, rural population that endorses his re-election by 59 per cent.
An intense debate within the NRM has followed a controversial resolution by members of the parliamentary caucus of the ruling party during a retreat in Kyankwanzi in February, endorsing Mr Museveni as a sole candidate for the party for a fifth elective term in 2016.
The resolution has split the party down the middle, especially among its youth supporters, some of whom support secretary general Amama Mbabazi to run in 2016.
Mr Mbabazi, who is also the Prime Minister, has said he will not challenge Mr Museveni but has also not ruled himself out of contention.
In 2011, Mr Museveni returned to power after posting 69.5 per cent of the vote. These poll results would indicate a drop in popularity nearly two-and-a-half years later. President Museveni’s victory in 2011 was followed by bitter protests that paralysed Kampala and some major towns for months.
The demonstrations dubbed “Walk-to-Work” were in protest of the bad economic situation which was partly blamed on inflation partly triggered by massive amounts of money poured into the election.
Last month, MPs of the ruling NRM party were given Shs4 million for each sub-county to popularise President Museveni’s 2016 bid. This poll was conducted at around the same time the MPs were in their constituencies seeking the endorsement.
NRM chairman position
It is not only for the national presidency that Mr Museveni has strong backing. The same pattern emerges on whether he should stay as chairperson of the National Resistance Movement—a party he founded.
Asked “Should Yoweri Kaguta Museveni remain the chairman of the NRM party?”, 56 per cent of the respondents said “yes”, 27 per cent “no”, 8 per cent refused to comment while 9 per cent answered “don’t know”.
Like it was with the national presidency question, again western Uganda, President Museveni’s home region, posted the biggest support for him to stay as NRM chairperson. A total of 63 per cent of the respondents from the region backed him, followed by eastern (56 per cent), northern (54 per cent) and central again trails with 49 per cent support.
If these two questions are anything to go by, President Museveni should expect strong resistance to his candidature in central Uganda if he decides to run in 2016.
Asked why they supported Museveni for chairmanship of the party, 22 per cent of the respondents said he was a good leader, 21 per cent said he was still capable, 19 per cent said he was the only one who could manage the party another 19 per cent cited development and 17 per cent said they endorsed him because he founded the party.
Two per cent gave no reason for their support. A total of 1,195 respondents answered this particular question and were asked for justification.
Experts, politicians react to the survey findings
Dr Mohammed Kulumba of Makerere University says Mr Museveni is benefiting from Ugandans fear for a return to turmoil that preceded his ascendance to power nearly three decades ago.
“Rightly or wrongly, Museveni is still benefitting from Uganda’s social, political and economic past of disorder. Majority of the ordinary Ugandans think a change of leadership would signal a return to that past and Museveni has successfully marketed that falsehood.
Our opposition parties have also not succeeded with coming up with a serious contender even if they come up with a coalition,” said Dr Kulumba, a political scientist.
According to Mr Mathias Nsubuga, secretary general of the Democratic Party, Mr Museveni apparent popularity is not real.
“If you are saying that Ugandans want him to stand, why is he afraid of people competing with him in the NRM? If he is popular, let him allow people to stand against him internally” Mr Nsubuga said in reference to the Kyankwanzi resolutions.
But NRM Chief Whip Justine Kasule Lumumba was elated at the findings, saying her party chairman’s popularity was being driven by an appeal to the youth.
“It is the opening up of leadership positions to different people to take over. In the past, Cabinet used to have only old people but we now have youths in 20s sitting in cabinet,” said Ms Lumumba.
For Mr Abdul Naduli, the NRM vice chairman for the central region, Mr Museveni’s popularity boils down to the peace prevailing in the country.
“It is because he has ensured the country is peaceful and secure. Look at what is happening in Kenya. Ugandans still prefer him because of what he did to rescue us from torture,” said Mr Naduli.
Mr Mike Mukula, the Soroti Municipality MP, said: “Many of the voters still see him (Museveni) as the guarantor of peace and security. Most importantly, he has been able to maintain peace and security in the region.”