Kampala- If the Opposition chooses to field a single presidential candidate for the 2016 elections, that person should either be Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu or Mr Nandala Mafabi, a new poll shows.
According to the poll commissioned by the Daily Monitor and the Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, 33 per cent of Ugandans would back Gen Muntu as the Opposition flag-bearer while 31 per cent support Mr Mafabi.
Maj Gen Muntu is the president of the Forum for Democratic Change party while Mr Nandala Mafabi is the Budadiri West MP and former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP). The two men in November 2012 faced off in an acrimonious election for the FDC presidency which Gen Muntu won with a slim margin.
Respondents were answering the question, “In the absence of Dr Besigye, who should the Opposition field as flag-bearer?”
Dr Kizza Besigye, who stepped down as FDC president in November 2012 after contesting thrice against President Museveni and losing, has indicated that he will not vie for the presidency in 2016.
The poll which was conducted by Research World International, a research firm, between April 15 and 27, 2014 showed that Democratic Party president Norbert Mao and his Uganda Peoples Congress counterpart, Mr Olara Otunnu, are a joint third with 11 per cent each.
The survey, which was carried out in the four major regions of the country; north, east, west and central, involved a total of 2,142 respondents. Females formed 54 per cent of the respondents and males 46 per cent. Rural-based respondents were 78 per cent and urban-dwellers 22 per cent.
To complete the list of likely candidates for the opposition flag-bearer is Ms Beti Kamya of the Uganda Federal Alliance who comes fourth with 5 per cent while embattled Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago is sixth with 3 per cent of the vote.
FDC yet to heal
Whereas the FDC might be delighted by findings that two of its members lead the pack of Opposition presidential hopefuls, a question about who should specifically be the party’s flag-bearer come 2016 reveals that it is yet to recover from the divisive 2012 election.
Asked “If Kizza Besigye does not contest as the flag-bearer of FDC, who should be the party’s next flag-bearer?”, both Gen Muntu and Mr Mafabi had 17 per cent of respondents backing them.
The two principals contested the party’s presidency in November 2012, with Gen Muntu getting 393 votes against Mr Mafabi’s 361. The latter protested the results, saying they had been rigged.
The party then constituted a commission to investigate the polls but its recommendation that Gen Muntu serves only two years instead of five caused another storm. Late last year, Gen Muntu dropped Mr Mafabi as LoP, replacing him with Mr Wafula Oguttu.
Surprising though, in third position for this question was Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago who got 5 per cent of respondents backing him. Whereas Mr Lukwago is a close political associate of Dr Besigye, he is a member of the Democratic Party but contested for the Lord Mayor position as an independent under the loose group Suubi.
He has worked closely with Dr Besigye since the 2011 elections, during the Walk-to-Work protests that followed and his troubled tenure at KCCA as Lord Mayor. Mr Lukwago is currently fighting to keep his own position after he was impeached in November last year.
Fourth in running is former Mbarara Municipality MP Winnie Byanyima, who is also wife of Dr Besigye. Ms Byanyima, who scored 4 per cent support, has been off the political scene since the 7th Parliament. She is currently the executive director of the UK-based charity, Oxfam International.
The fifth and sixth positions are occupied by Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu and former Agago MP Ogenga Latigo, who was LoP in the 8th Parliament. The two have three and two per cent respectively.
The large number of people, however, who refused to offer a response to this question, is something the party will need to pay attention to. Whereas 20 per cent of respondents said there was no one in the party to replace Dr Besigye, another 20 per cent refused to offer a response. Another 8 per cent said they did not know who to support.
Is Opposition attractive?
Respondents were also divided on whether the Opposition has become more attractive with 37 per cent responding in the affirmative while another 37 per cent indicated that the Opposition is still unattractive.
While 47 per cent said they would vote for an Opposition candidate if the parties fielded one candidate, 53 per cent indicated they would still not vote for the Opposition even if one candidate was fielded.
Western Uganda, the traditional stronghold of the ruling party, expressed the stiffest resistance to a sole Opposition candidate, with 73 per cent saying they would still not vote an Opposition candidate against 27 who answered in the affirmative.
At 64 per cent, northern Uganda, an Opposition bastion until the 2011 elections, registered the highest preference for a sole Opposition candidate.
In central region, 51 per cent said they would vote a sole Opposition candidate while 49 said even with a sole candidate, they would still not vote the Opposition.
At 48 per cent, eastern region registered the least support for a sole Opposition candidate.
Politicians give their views on the opinion poll
Mr Jack Sabiiti, the Rukiiga County MP: says the neck-and-neck contest between the two FDC principals (Muntu and Mafabi) points to something amiss in the November 2012 election.
“If we already have a party president but the poll says they are tying, this means there might have been something wrong in Namboole,” Mr Sabiiti, who is also the FDC treasurer, said.
Prof Ogenga Latigo, the FDC vice president: agrees that the party is still feeling the effects of the contest between Gen Muntu and Mr Mafabi.
“There has been no moving on from Namboole. There is a continuing stalemate because of the ascendency of Muntu. There are no issues that can make either of the two stand out. The census [survey] is just reflecting the status quo,” Prof Latigo said.
However, Gen Muntu does not agree that the party is still held back by post-election controversies. “That [contest for flag bearer] is an expression of people according to their wishes and that is what democracy is all about,” Gen Muntu said.
Asked if FDC faithful are not decided on who to hand the party ticket, he responded: “That would be expected because we still have one and a half years to go to a delegates’ conference to choose a flag bearer and by the time we get there, people will be decided.”
But Ms Sarah Eperu, a senior FDC official, says the poll results are an indictment on Gen Muntu. “It shows that Muntu has failed to make a difference in improving the political fortunes of FDC because by now, he should have proved to the party faithful that he can be formidable to represent the party in the 2016 elections.
The elections in Namboole nearly tied, for someone to prove that he is super than the other, he should have performed by now,” she said.
FDC secretary general Alice Alaso, however, disagrees. “There is no outright choice because even the party president has to be subjected to a delegates conference. It is not a measure on the party president,” said Ms Alaso.