Opposition wars: The deserving vs the electable

Sunday April 14 2019

By ALLAN TACCA

If the February 2021 general election is on schedule, and Museveni is still the President, he will be the candidate for the ruling NRM.

No matter how gross his mistakes between now and 2021, or how serious the omissions, that matter is settled.

If the ruling clique does not pull something from its bag of dirty tricks to push the election further, or even stage a coup against itself, Opposition politicians have 22 months to turn the generalised desire for change into a vote so huge that all NRM-inspired State malpractices cannot deny them a victory.

But elections are won or lost by living people, not bloodless statuettes on a square board.

With the (NRM/State-dependent) Independent Electoral Commission in control, and State funds in trillions of shillings not hidden from the NRM, not to forget the men and machines that intimidate and deliver pain, opposition candidates will have the usual double-height hurdles to jump, from local government contests to the presidency.

Who, in the Opposition, can win? It means having that extra glow of charisma, or going a notch higher in commitment to the people’s cause, or at least in the articulation of the cause; it means more courage than average and a readiness to suffer; it means more vigilance. All in all, it is much easier to be losers!

Then there is the friction within our opposition ranks. It is not about differences in ideas, but about the sheer ability to attract votes.

After reaching some high position in a party, or after working very hard for the party, or even by just being a distinguished sympathiser, many aspirants believe they have a right to be the next MP or chairman for X constituency, or the next President of the republic.

Because of that perceived right, anyone in the party (or in the Opposition in general) who proposes a challenge is deemed an enemy. The idea of a ‘queue’, first expressed in the ruling NRM, is alive and well in the Opposition.

Even when they clearly have no chance of winning, many party officials and party notables polish their egos and insist that they are the legitimate flag bearers for their party. Sometimes, even their party constitution agrees.

These are the ‘deserving’. The DP’s late Ssebaana Kizito was a classic case of the deserving but unelectable. Nobert Mao is another. The FDC had a very fine man, Gen Mugisha Muntu, who, unfortunately, was deserving, but unelectable.

Across the divide, you have the hard-nosed politicians who understand what winning means. They are articulate, they are shrewd, they are charismatic; they have the gifts that make candidates win. These are the ‘electable’. And they have very little patience with the deserving but unelectable.

Although the FDC constitution points the way to the advantages in separating high party office from flag-bearing, many Ugandans are still caught in the linkage groove, so they assume (wrongly) that if the one-time FDC party chief, Mugisha Muntu, had been given the flag, he would have got the votes Dr Besigye gets in the presidential race.

Working on a specially designed opposition frame, Mr Amama Mbabazi was another case of the deserving but unelectable.
With the appearance of Bobi Wine, the Opposition space has got somewhat crowded. The electable have become more ruthless. The Besigye/FDC machine has shifted into a higher gear. The unelectable in the so-named DP Bloc seem to believe that blending with electable Bobi Wine will make them more attractive.
Will they mix? That is for another Sunday.