Retire in 2016. This is the message a growing majority of Ugandans are telling President Museveni, a new opinion poll suggests.
The results of the poll seem to reinforce similar calls from a section of religious leaders and some leaders within the ruling NRM party, keen to see the first ever peaceful transition in the country.
The findings, however, also come out strongly against the method being used by the mainstream opposition against Mr Museveni’s rule—the walk-to-work campaign—preferred by Dr Kizza Besigye.
In the opinion poll released yesterday by Research World International (RWI), 56 per cent of the respondents said Mr Museveni should not stand again in 2016 while 35 per cent said he should.
The respondents were answering the question, “Should President Museveni contest again in 2016?”
This view, according to the survey is spread across the country with Kampala selected as a separate region because of its unique demographics being 100 per cent urban, at 65 per cent, posting the strongest opposition to a Museveni candidature in 2016.
Kampala was followed by the west at 59 per cent, north at 58, east at 53 and central at 51 per cent.
The view is almost equally strong between Ugandans in towns and cities as those in villages.
On a similar question about Mr Museveni’s main opponent in the last three races, Dr Kizza Besigye, opinion is almost divided down the middle between those who support a fourth run for him in 2016 and those who would not want him to run again.
Asked the question: “Should Dr Kizza Besigye stand again in 2016?” 45 per cent favoured him standing again against 43 per cent who believe he should retire.
Lead researcher and chief executive officer at RWI, Dr Patrick Wakida, said the poll, conducted between March 19 and April 6 across the country, sought to “understand public opinion on the social, political and economic direction of Uganda since the general elections in 2011.”
Dr Wakida said it was mainly an assessment of one year of the Museveni presidency in his fourth elective term which has witnessed the most pronounced expression of public discontent, especially over the economy highlighted through protests dubbed “walk-to-work.”
It presents interesting parallels to an Afrobarometer survey which was also conducted around the same time on nearly the same questions.
Though the walk-to-work protests seemed popular at their peak in April and May last year, Ugandans seem to have grown increasingly weary of the method of protest and an overwhelming 75 per cent today say they do not support them while only 17 per cent out of the 25 who expressed support say they would personally participate in future walk-to-work.
While Ugandans support a 2016 departure of President Museveni from the political helm after 30 years, their choice of his likely replacement presents interesting findings.
On the question of who most Ugandans would vote for if President Museveni was not a candidate, perennial rival, Dr Besigye, beats all contestants by far posting a comfortable 22.5 per cent preference rating against closest challengers Janet Museveni at 9.8 per cent, Gilbert Bukenya at 8.6 per cent and House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga at 7.6 per cent.
The RWI poll also suggests a growing readiness and acceptance of women leaders with a majority posting support for Ms Rebecca Kadaga as a potential candidate with Ms Museveni also coming out ahead as the preferred replacement for her husband as the ruling party’s leader.
Ms Museveni led with 13.9 per cent as preferred leader of the ruling party if her husband is not on the ballot. Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya at 13 per cent and Speaker Kadaga at 11.5 per cent polls took second and third positions, respectively.
Prime Minister Mbabazi was fourth most preferred with 8 per cent registering a preference for him.
The poll surveyed 1,300 people in 65 districts across the country.
“This raises the question: Is Uganda ready for a woman President,” the researchers said.
If elections were held today, the poll shows, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) would still win but with a much diminished percentage of 54 while the main opposition FDC would still maintain its 29 per cent mark as in the actual election in February last year.
The NRM candidate, Yoweri Museveni scored 68.3 per cent in the election last year but findings in the December 2011-February 2012 Afrobarometer survey indicated that this support is radically reduced with seven out of every 10 people agreeing that Uganda is heading in the wrong direction under his rule.
Additional reporting by Dear Jeanne