By-election results need deeper debate

President Museveni (left) hands over a flag to NRM flag bearer in the Gogonyo parliamentary by-election Derrick Orone in Pallisa District on Tuesday. PHOTO/PPU

What you need to know:

  • The issue: By-elections
  • Our view: The profound fear has to be loss of faith in the electoral process. 

Last Thursday, voters in Gogonyo and Bukimbiri counties in Pallisa and Kisoro districts respectively, went to polls in by-elections for their parliamentary representatives.  

Mr Derrick Orone and Mr Eddie Kwizera, correspondingly, both members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), eased through with commanding victories.  

Prior to this, Mr Herbert Ariko floored Mr Moses Altan in another by-election in Soroti as did Mr Andrew Muwonge in Kayunga District. 

There is a clear pattern that NRM is charged and almost desperate to maintain and increase their majority at both local council and parliamentary levels. 

In fact, their officials are quick to chest-thump about the popularity and remind us that NRM is a mass party. 
However, there are some common features of these elections. The Opposition are quick to claim intimidation, bribery, ballot stuffing and many other vices. 

The latest addition to this list of impurities is Opposition candidates pulling out of the processes at the 11th hour in Gogonyo.

This can represent one of two things – candidates being convinced that their withdrawal is for the good of the electorate or a loss of faith in the process. 

Mr Joseph Okoboi Opolot and Mr Issa Bantalib Taligola, would-be candidates in Gogonyo, withdrew after meeting President Museveni. 

The undertones there include promises of jobs and funds from State coffers. Did all those who withdrew really believe that they had an opportunity to win the election? Maybe not. 

The profound fear has to be loss of faith in the electoral process. If leaders choose not to take part because they feel the NRM will have its way, why should voters bother? 

Election officials are already fighting for credibility and are often short of funding. Amid all this fight, they need the public to back them. 

Upon completion of every election cycle, legal challenges are almost a certainty, which could make each passing election cycle even more confusing.

Add to the mix the almost certain shortage of materials, and the seemingly unending challenges of logistics of holding elections, and the process for choosing candidates within parties, it becomes even more of a petri dish for electoral discord.

For anyone who has objectively watched the political scene over the past 30 years, it’s certainly not surprising that confidence in elected officials continues to drop. 

That most of those polled do not inspire confidence in their voters to make intelligent decisions that improve their lives makes the polling numbers even less. 

But it sure is depressing and doesn’t bode well for our democracy or the future of our electoral system.

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