The surprises in the just-concluded presidential and parliamentary elections are few. We knew that we were going in for a fake election, arguably the fakest Uganda has had since independence, and is organised by an electoral body that only pretends to be independent but, in reality, owes allegiance to the politician who appointed it.
This really makes it hard for the losers to accept defeat gracefully — and if President Museveni really cared about winning free and fair elections, he would have done everything in his power to ensure that our elections are organised by a truly independent and genuinely impartial electoral body.
As I started writing this article, the Electoral Commission was announcing the third batch of provisional results. President Museveni, as many Ugandans knew and were expecting, was not only leading the 10 candidates challenging him but had taken a commanding lead, dashing all hopes of a re-run and putting Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, or Bobi Wine, who was his main challenger and had caused a lot of excitement and raised hopes of change, in a distant second position.
It would be something of a miracle if the outcome was different. The ruling NRM has rigged the process for decades, preventing Opposition politicians from campaigning freely and effectively denying them access to voters, which remains the biggest obstacle that anyone challenging Mr Museveni has to contend with.
Now the Opposition have to accept the results — Mr Kyagulanyi had already dismissed the results even as counting continued — and move on unless they have incontrovertible and overwhelming evidence of rigging.
If they go ahead and petition the Supreme Court with evidence only in the form of a few isolated cases of rigging, the court will declare Mr Museveni the winner.
The election, fake as it was, does raise some important questions. What next for the Opposition, especially for Mr Kyagulanyi of the National Unity Platform (NUP), who had become a political sensation? Although he has impressed his supporters by taking on the regime in the face of near-insurmountable challenges, some costing lives of his supporters, provisional results had indicated defeat was staring him in the face.
And it was not clear if his party would win a significant number of seats, which would be his real victory. His dream of leading Uganda is still pie in the sky. The regime continues to hog power.
Mr Kyagulanyi may concentrate on building and strengthening the NUP and return in 2026 probably stronger. But in five years, a lot of things change on the political landscape.
For example, no one knew, in 2016, that Mr Kyagulanyi was going to be Mr Museveni’s main challenger in the 2021 election. He was not a politician and had not even joined Parliament. Many Opposition supporters still expected Dr Kizza Besigye to return a fifth time and challenge Mr Museveni. Dr Besigye did not contest, saying it is impossible to win an election in which Mr Museveni is a candidate. He could not have been more right.
Another key question this election has raised is how the Opposition can wrest power from the NRM. Whether or not Mr Museveni seeks re-election in 2026, the Opposition will still have the self-same steep odds stacked against them today unless a raft of electoral reforms that were proposed by the Supreme Court are implemented.
Mr Museveni will continue to rely on his security forces to frustrate the Opposition. They will still not be able to reach out to voters. They will contest elections, lose and complain — as ever.
Mr Namiti is a journalist and former
Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk