One of the four candidates in the Kasese Woman parliamentary by-election has been asked to pull out of the race after she reportedly met President Museveni at the weekend.
The Kasese Woman MP seat fell vacant last month after the Court of Appeal nullified the elections on grounds that there was non-compliance with electoral laws by the Electoral Commission (EC). This was after defeated candidate Rehema Muhindo (NRM) petitioned court.
Last week the EC nominated Winfred Kizza (FDC) , Rehema Muhindo (NRM), Rosemary Masika (DP) and Betty Kayezu (Independent) for the race. Campaigns started on Monday, but Ms Kayezu has reportedly discontinued her rallies. It is said President Museveni has convinced Ms Kayezu, an NRM leaning independent candidate, to step down in favour of the NRM party candidate.
The NRM camp considers Ms Kayezu’s candidature a division of NRM votes that will give FDC’s Kizza a walk over. After being nominated last Thursday, Ms Kayezu and five other members of her campaign team were reportedly invited to State House on Saturday to meet the President.
Mr Moses Baguma, who was part of the delegation, said the President convinced Kayezu to stand down in favour of the NRM candidate Muhindo. He says President Museveni argued that if she remains in the race, it will give Ms Kizza an advantage, because the NRM party votes will be split between Kayezu and Muhindo.
When asked on Tuesday why she was withdrawing from the race, Ms Kayezu said: “I was asked by the President. So I am waiting for him anytime to come to Kasese and I declare publicly.”
Asked further whether she is being forced out of the race, she first kept quiet and later answered, “No, it is my decision”.
The Kasese District Registrar, Mr Valley Kanzira, said Ms Kayezu will be declared out of the race, if only she writes officially to the EC. When contacted on this, Ms Kayezu said: “ I am now still in the race but I will not complete it, I haven’t written to the EC but I will do it later”
However, Ms Kayezu’s move has angered sections of the Basongora communities, who have accused her of being a traitor and have threatened to boycott the elections. Some sections claim that they contributed Shs20m for her campaigns and want her to refund the money.
Asked whether her supporters have been informed and have endorsed her new move, Ms Kayezu said: “I am going around informing them, some have accepted while others have rejected the idea”. DP candidate Masika has vowed not to withdraw from the race as suggested by her party leadership.
The DP leadership is considering opposition harmony as very vital in the Kasese race that is hotly contested by Ms Kiiza and Ms Muhindo. Ms Masika told Daily Monitor on Wednesday that she is not ready to pull out of the race.
She accused the party leadership of announcing their plans to liaise with FDC’s Kiiza before consulting her. Ms Winnie Bwambale, the chief campaign agent for the DP candidate, said there is no way the team in the district can support the idea generated by the headquarters.
Ms Masika is insisting not to step down, the law gives powers to her party to pull her out of the race.