Majority Ugandans want Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to be the country’s next president if incumbent Yoweri Museveni and his political nemesis, Dr Kizza Besigye, both do not contest in 2016.
According to results of a political opinion poll commissioned by the Daily Monitor and the Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, Ms Kadaga is closely followed by First Lady and Karamoja Affairs Minister Janet Museveni. The results will most likely excite those who support the idea of a female presidency.
Responding to the question, “If Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Kizza Besigye were not contesting for President who would be your preferred candidate to vote for if elections were held today?”, 13 per cent of the respondents indicated support for Ms Kadaga while 9 per cent backed Ms Museveni.
In third place was Forum for Democratic Change president Mugisha Muntu with 8 per cent, while Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi had 6 per cent support. Former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi is in fifth position with 5 per cent of the respondents backing him.
Uganda Peoples Congress president Olara Otunnu shares the sixth position with Democratic Party president Norbert Mao and former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya with four per cent each.
A total of 28 per cent of the respondents, however, said they were undecided while 7 per cent refused to offer a response.
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.
Dr Patrick Wakida, the lead researcher and chief executive officer of Research World International, said the responses were spontaneous and not prompted.
“These questions were left open and respondents raised the names themselves,” he said on Friday, while handing over the findings.
Whereas Mr Museveni is yet to personally indicate if he will run for the presidency in 2016, he has been supportive of a motion adopted by NRM legislators in February that sought to make him the sole presidential candidate of his party come the next polls.
On the other hand, Dr Besigye who has run thrice against President Museveni and lost, has said he will not contest the next election, instead preferring to agitate for electoral reforms.
NRM chairperson race
Responding to a separate question on the leadership of the National Resistance Movement party, again Ms Kadaga and Ms Museveni topped the list of those who should replace Mr Museveni if he chooses not to stay as party chairperson.
Asked, “If Yoweri Museveni does not contest as candidate, who should be the next leader/chairperson of the party?”, 20 per cent of the respondents backed Ms Kadaga while Ms Museveni and Mr Mbabazi tied in second position with 10 per cent each.
Ms Kadaga is the NRM vice chairperson for eastern Uganda, while Mr Mbabazi is the party secretary general.
Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, who has indicated he will seek to challenge for the NRM chair as well as the President, follows with five per cent. General Salim Saleh, a young brother to the President, is in fifth position with four per cent, while Special Forces Commander and First Son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, is in sixth position with two per cent.
Other politicians who are mentioned include Vice President Edward Sekandi, Minister of Health Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, NRM Treasurer and Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde and Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo, who was last year expelled from the NRM party for indiscipline.
what experts say about the opinion poll
Dr Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a research consultant and former head of the Makerere University Institute of Social Research (MISR), says Ms Kadaga’s political fortunes have been helped by the media touting her as a possible contestant in the 2016 polls.
He, however, was skeptical about her chances of realising the support to victory in an actual election.
“The media has been talking up this Kadaga thing for a long time and I think people are beginning to absorb it. But given the nature of our elections today with vote rigging, fighting and violence I do not think Ugandans can vote for a female president,” Dr Golooba-Muteebi said.
Catholic priest and avid governance activist, Rev Fr Gaetano Batanyenda of Kabale Diocese, says the internal NRM race goes down to who is perceived to be “cleaner” in the Movement house and distant from Mr Museveni.
“Ugandans would prefer Kadaga because her political hands are not soiled and she has not been part of these fights in the NRM,” Fr Batanyenda said in reference to the ongoing power play within the NRM, triggered by the February endorsement of Mr Museveni as the party’s sole flag bearer for the 2016 polls.
“Ugandans look at her as someone who is not close to Museveni. She is distant. People think there would be nothing different between Museveni and Mbabazi or Janet because they have been very close to him [Museveni] for a very long time,” Fr Batanyenda said.
According to Mr Joseph Bbosa, the vice president of the opposition Uganda Peoples Congress, Ms Kadaga’s track record compared to her senior colleagues in the NRM may be turning the tilt in her favour.
“Nothing horrible has been said about her. People look at her as a sober leader unlike many others who are in the contest,” Mr Bbosa said.