Six out of 10 MPs in the current Parliament were voted out as the ruling party tightened its grip on the house and Opposition parties’ representation declined, a Saturday Monitor analysis of the results of the February 18 parliamentary election shows.
Out of 231legislators who held direct seats in the current Parliament whose term ends next month, only 96 were re-elected, with the rest replaced by 121 first timers while 14 politicians who were once in Parliament but were defeated rebounded to the house. This translates into 58.4 per cent attrition rate for direct seats.
Of the 112 female MPs in the out-going Parliament, only 43 per cent retained their seats as 64 fresh women made it to the 10th Parliament and five politicians who had been out in the cold having been to Parliament and lost rebounded, giving an attrition rate of 61.6 per cent for women MPs.
The combined attrition rate for women MPs and representatives on direct seats was 59.5 per cent – approximately six out of 10 MPs losing their seats in the last election. This, if the 66 per cent attrition rate often quoted for the last Parliament is accurate, is a reduction in the average number of MPs who lose their seats.
Mere figures, however, do not tell the whole story of the major casualties, rebounds and failed rebounds of the just-concluded parliamentary election, which was largely overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the presidential election that took place simultaneously and the third election petition against President Museveni that followed.
Ruling party strongmen Kahinda Otafiire (minister for Constitutional Affairs) and Dr Crisus Kiyonga (minister of Defence) were among the host of key figures who lost their seats, just like Information minister Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi. First Deputy Prime Minister and minister for Public Service Henry Kajura, the octogenarian politician, who President Museveni once referred to as the “natural leader of Bunyoro”, was also swept aside in the NRM primaries as voters exhibited hostility towards long-serving incumbents that in many places did not seem to extend to Mr Museveni.
With the departure from the NRM of former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, who according to many, was Mr Museveni’s remaining solid colleague from the bush war days, a renewal of sorts seemed inevitable if Mr Museveni continued in power.
Bush war losers
And this point, going by the results, seems to have been seriously taken up by the voters, who threw out the remaining members of the bush war period and other strongmen in the parliamentary election.
It, therefore, remains to be seen how Mr Museveni will approach the selection of his new cabinet. There is already a number of ex-officio members – those who are not MPs – including Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja, minister for General Duties Prof Tarsis Kabwegyere and minister for Agriculture Tress Bucanayandi. It remains to be seen whether Mr Museveni will appoint more ex-officio members to cabinet without axing some of the current ones, or he will turn to the new and younger generation in Parliament.
Opinion is split on whether the ministers should be appointed from among parliamentarians, with some arguing that having ministers who are also MPs blurs the separation of powers that was envisaged between the Legislature and the Executive. The argument goes that by MPs expecting to be appointed ministers, their legislative work is compromised as they look to please the appointing authority.
On the other side of the fence, Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in Parliament was defeated for the second consecutive time, with the bad omen this time falling on Mr Wafula Oguttu, who only served one term as MP for Bukooli Central in Bugiri District. In the last Parliament, it was Prof Ogenga Latigo, then LoP and MP for Agago County, who took the fall.
With Prof Latigo making a strong comeback to the 10th Parliament to perhaps lay claim to the LoP slot, Mr Oguttu will embrace his fate with hope. Joining Mr Oguttu on the way out of Parliament is Ms Alice Alaso, the first secretary general of FDC who chairs the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. Also voted out are FDC strongmen Kassiano Wadri, Geoffrey Ekanya and Amuriat Oboi, and DP secretary general Mathias Nsubuga.
Prof Latigo will be joined on the way back to Parliament by former ministers James Nsaba Buturo and Tom Butime, as well as former legislators Sam Bitangaro, Maj Guma Gumisiriza and Israel Kayonde, plus 13 others.
But rebounding to the house is not an easy task, as Federal Alliance president Beti Kamya, former minister Omara Atubo and UPC stalwart Livingston Okello-Okello learnt in the last election. Other notables whose bids to rebound to Parliament failed include FDC’s Salaamu Musumba and former minister Aggrey Awori.
Out of the 400 direct and district woman seats for which data is available, the ruling National Resistance Movement won 288 seats, independents won 57, the Forum for Democratic Change took 34, the Democratic Party won 15 and the Uganda Peoples Congress took six seats.
The Conservative Party’s representation was wiped out with the defeat in Rubaga South of its president-general and lone MP, Mr Ken Lukyamuzi, just like the retirement of Makindye West’s Hussein Kyanjo left Jeema with no representative in the house.
NRM’s 288 of the 400 direct and women seats translate into 72 per cent, which is above the 66 per cent – the magical two-thirds majority, which is required for passing major decisions in the house. The ruling party’s strength in the house, however, is even bigger than that.
Only one of the five youth MPs – National Youth MP Anne Adeke Ebaju – is opposition and all the workers MPs usually vote with the ruling party, just like the MPs for the disabled. The 10 army MPs, even though they are barred from being attached to any party, have also traditionally sided with the government side.
When, for instance, push came to shove as President Museveni sought to extend his eligibility beyond the two five-year terms that the Constitution allowed a president to serve then, two army MPs came under fire for going against the position of the ruling party.
Then Brig Henry Tumukunde was forced to resign his seat for arguing against open voting in Parliament in the debate to lift term limits, while Col Fred Bogere was castigated and sidelined for abstaining during the vote to lift term limits. He was not re-elected to Parliament and no army MP has since 2005 been seen to go against the government’s position.
One source of renewal for the NRM majority in Parliament over the years has been the creation of new electoral areas, and the approach did not disappoint even this time.
Of the 35 new constituencies for which data is available, 28 went to NRM, five came in as independents and FDC managed two.
Women and Parliament
Out of the 288 direct parliamentary seats for which data is available, only 19 seats, representing a paltry 6.59 per cent, were won by women. This speaks to how much progress, or indeed lack thereof, has been made regarding the much-vaunted women emancipation drive.
Of the 19 women who won direct seats, 13 belong to the ruling party, three are independents, two are DP and one is UPC. The Forum for Democratic Change, which for the third consecutive term will be the leading opposition party going by representation in Parliament, did not have any of the women it sponsored win a single direct seat.
Ms Beatrice Anywar, who has not renounced her FDC membership although she got into a quarrel with her party when she nominated Go Forward candidate Amama Mbabazi to run for president in the last election, won the newly created Kitgum Municipality seat but as an independent.
The small number of women winning direct seats brings into sharp focus the debate about women representation in Parliament on the affirmative ticket. Women MPs, some have argued, should be limited on the number of times they can stand on the affirmative ticket, so that having been in Parliament for say two terms on the ticket, they are deemed capable of competing with men for direct seats.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, who has represented Kamuli District since 1989, and Ms Cecilia Ogwal, the veteran FDC politician representing Dokolo District, have been cited as examples of woman MPs who have since grown in profile and should now be competing for direct seats to leave room for up-and coming female politicians.
The argument in favour of encouraging women politicians to vie for direct parliamentary seats is premised on the theory that woman MP seats were not meant to be a permanent feature of Uganda’s politics, but an affirmative measure to facilitate women’s involvement in politics so that once enough women can favourably challenge men the window for woman MPs is closed.
Scrapping the woman MP slots once the women draw even with men would, the proponents of this view argue, help reduce the size of Parliament, which will top 420 in the coming term due to the new constituencies that were created. The numbers will swell further after new districts that were approved to come into force in the next term kick in.
Also, the argument goes, the ruling NRM, and any party which will come after it, will be prevented from using woman MP seats to augment its representation in Parliament and exaggerate its majority. In the next Parliament, for instance, whereas NRM won 70 per cent of the direct seats, it won 77 per cent of the woman MP seats, pushing its majority two points higher to 72 per cent. And this is not a one-off; the ruling party has consistently won a bigger majority of woman seats compared to its majority in the direct seats.
The fruits of ‘rebellion’
For those who are concerned about the big majority NRM has always commanded, the key argument is that Mr Museveni in particular, the Executive and the party in general, then use the house to serve personal and group interests as opposed to serving the national interest.
But going by the results of the last election, and perhaps contrary to popular belief, voters do not necessarily punish ruling party MPs who during their parliamentary work, take positions opposed to those of President Museveni.
All the four “rebel” MPs – Mr Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Mr Barnabas Tinkasimire (Buyaga West), Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndora East) – were returned.
Whereas Mr Nsereko and Mr Niwagaba returned as independents, Mr Tinkasimire and Mr Ssekikubo returned on the ruling party ticket, with Mr Tinkasiimire sailing through unopposed.
What it means
This tends to suggest that even ruling party supporters will perhaps not always vote parliamentary candidates, even NRM candidates, who the President approves of. Perhaps to prove the point further, the voters in Bukedea District threw out Ms Rose Akol, who had just months earlier been appointed to the powerful position of Internal Affairs minister.
All in all, it was a parliamentary election which the ruling party, as its spokespeople have tirelessly said, won overwhelmingly, going by the numbers as declared by the Electoral Commission. It was, however, not short on controversies. Until now, one-and-a-half months since the election on February 18, the Electoral Commission has not published the results of the Parliamentary election.
There were complaints in some constituencies, with some candidates who were declared as having lost claiming that they actually won. FDC’s Simon Toolit, for instance, insists that he defeated Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah in the Omoro County elections, but that the Gulu District presiding officer declared Mr Oulanyah winner without releasing figures.
And so the season for parliamentary election petitions is here. As was the case in the past, there is likely to be a number of elections annulled and a spate of by-elections.
This article relied on data collected by Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Samuel Emwamu, Steven Ariong, Felix Basiime, Alfred Tumushabe, Felix Warome, Bill Oketch, Julius Ocungi and Sadat Mbogo.