By Andrew Mwenda
So last evening the Electoral Commission announced the results in the bye election for the woman MP for Rukungiri. FDC’s Betty Muzanira won with 50,000 votes against NRM’s Winnie Matsiko with 46,000 – a difference of only 4,000 votes in a district that is the home of opposition presidential candidate for life, Kizza Besigye. Since then, sections of the opposition have been congratulating themselves on the “big win.”
This is the real problem facing the opposition in Uganda especially the radical extremist wing led by its cult leader, Besigye. First they have spent years claiming the EC works for Museveni. Their victory is proof these allegations are fake. Second, there was nothing unusual or unexpected in the results in Rukungiri. Besigye beat Museveni in Rukungiri in 2016. The MP for Rukungiri municipality and the MP Rujumbura country that surrounds the municipality are all FDC. If Muzanira has lost I would have been shocked.
Yet FDC won this seat with a very narrow margin – less than 5%. This shows that even its cult leader’s stronghold and home the party struggles to win.
Secondly, the NRM, using the state deployed all its resources – money, police, army, including President Yoweri Museveni himself and lost. This demonstrates that no amount of intimidation and rigging can defeat a cause or candidate whose time has come. This time the FDC has polling agents on every polling station, showing that it has supporters in the district. This is the thing the party lacks in other areas but it’s hooligan supporters assume exists.
The lessons from the election are obvious but the radical wing of FDC, which hijacked that party long ago, will not see them and therefore will allow Museveni to rule for as long as he wants. It is clear that rigging cannot save a weak candidate or cause. It is also true that a well organized opposition can steal win in spite of all the intimidation and rigging.
So the lesson for FDC come the next presidential elections since simple but critical. First be organized. Have polling agents at every polling station. Don’t claim someone steals your votes. You are hardly on the ground in most of the country. Victory comes to those who work hardest, not those who shout the loudest.