The Democratic Party (DP) National Organising secretary, Mr Sulaiman Kidandala, has nullified grassroot elections that were conducted in Masaka District last week.
Mr Kidandala, who is mandated by the party constitution to oversee internal party elections, said the exercise was conducted in total disregard of an earlier statement issued by his office stopping the exercise.
On January 30, Mr Kidandala issued a statement halting the party grassroot elections citing irregularities raised by some party members including the use of uncertified voter registers.
He said this was done after receiving several petitions and complaints from members, particularly in the districts of Masaka, Wakiso, Mukono, and parts of Kampala.
On January 21, DP announced its roadmap for internal elections and party structures, which will climax with election of new party leaders next month.
While delivering the new printed electoral materials to party leaders in Masaka on Wednesday, Mr Kidandala said fresh elections would commence today (Friday).
“The decision to cancel the earlier exercise was taken by National Executive Committee (NEC) not me as an individual and I am surprised that some people adamantly went ahead with the exercise. I wish to inform all party members that all those who benefited from the flawed exercise will not be gazetted as duly elected party leaders at any level,” he added.
The earlier exercise, which had been conducted in 400 villages, was spearheaded by a group allied to Mr Fred Mukasa Mbidde, the party vice president and also the DP Masaka District chairperson, who is currently canvassing support to unseat Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga, also a DP stalwart.
Mr Mpuuga said the first set of electoral materials that were dispatched to Masaka were recalled and it was against the party rules to have the elections.
“DP Masaka leadership was in a hurry to organise elections and this created suspicion among party members, forcing us to petition the party organising secretary,” he said.
Mr Francis Kimuli, the DP chairperson of Bukoto East Constituency, said he followed party guidance and halted the exercise in his area though he got criticism from many party members.
He handed over the party electoral materials that he had earlier received to Mr Kidandala and the latter gave him a new set of materials to be used during the fresh exercise.
The chairperson of DP in Masaka Municipality, Mr Bone Kasujja, welcomed the decision by the party to give them new electoral materials.
Mr Kasujja said they were overwhelmed by mass irregularities that marred the cancelled elections.
“Article 33 Section (e) of the DP Constitution empowers the office of the party organising secretary to organise grassroots party elections, formulate party registers and supervise elections at all levels among other roles, and since he was the one who halted the exercise, we had to follow his directive,” he said.
The elections were also protested by some party MPs hailing from the sub-region including Masaka Woman MP Mary Babirye Kabanda, Florence Namayanja (Bukoto East), and Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West).
The spokesperson of DP in Masaka District, Mr Denis Lukanga Majwala, who is allied to Mbidde’s camp, said they were not bothered by the decision, adding that they completed voting at the village level in the entire Municipality and now they have proceeded to parish level.
“An individual cannot nullify an election, it is only court which has such powers. Mr Kidandala is being used by party ‘rebel’ MPs who are against the current party leadership. We never received any official communication from him [Kidandala] and we are continuing with the polls as the party road map released by NEC stipulates,” he said.
The DP party branch in Masaka has been shrouded in endless political fights since 2018 when Mr Mbidde declared interest to challenge Mr Mpuuga in next year’s parliamentary elections.
Historically, Masaka is known to be DP’s stronghold due to the fact that one of its founders, Benedict Kiwanuka, is a son of the soil. It remains to be seen whether internal cohesion will be achieved in the remaining months to the general elections.