On Friday, Uganda will be holding presidential elections. Even eight months ago when I was in Uganda it was big news. So, what’s going on in Uganda?
Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda for over twenty years and leader of the National Resistance Movement, will be running for re-election yet again. He is running against a slate of opposition figures, chief among them Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change. But what’s important about this election?
Despite having won every election since seizing power, Museveni’s victory margin has been diminishing. In the last election he only won with 59% to Besigye’s 37%. With notable corruption and a diminishing economy in addition to failure to secure the north and west against rebellions, Museveni faces the possibility of winning only a plurality in tomorrow’s election. According to Ugandan law, if there is no clear majority than the front-runners compete in a run-off election. If this is the case, it is likely that the less viable opposition figures such as Norbert Mao and others would throw their support behind Besigye, ushering him into the presidency.
That said, Museveni is consolidating control. In both 2001 and 2006 the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that the elections were flawed with corruption and vote-rigging, but both upheld the election returns for various reasons. This election season there have already been rumors that the NRM has been buying votes in certain regions. There are even cases of Museveni personally handing out envelopes of money to prospective voters and of Parliament receiving funds that slant towards NRM victory. This in addition to a possible repeat of Museveni’s announcements a couple of years ago that any districts that did not vote for him would risk not receiving national funds for programs.
It looks like Museveni is setting up the elections in his favor. Regardless, there may be some room for the opposition to sneak a victory. But, even if that happens, he may not relinquish power. Besigye has been exiled before and accused of treason, a strong run against the President could result in similar consequences. With the vote taking place tomorrow, I’ll be keeping my eyes on how things unfold.