By Prof Venansius Baryamureeba
Everybody agrees that the 2020 NRM primaries have been marred by various irregularities i.e. lack of a credible voters’ register, falsification of declaration forms, multiple voting, underage voting, voter intimidation and voter bribery, among others.
Furthermore, some of the Electoral Commission Officials right from the village to district level, based on their performance can be classified as incompetent.
Those at village level lacked the capacity to both update the register and conduct elections.
Update of a voters’ register is a very sophisticated exercise and should not have been left to the village committee and the village registrar.
Since 2006 the number of independent MPs has been on the rise.
Many of the candidates that lost in the NRM primaries have threatened to come back as independents.
NRM should do everything possible to minimize the number of independent candidates participating in the general elections slated for 2021.
This may include repeat of elections in a few constituencies where the current election results are not conclusive.
If the numbers of Independent candidates continue to grow in Parliament, they will pose an existential threat to NRM in future.
Who knows at some point they may decide to constitute themselves into a political party or some kind of political organisation to increase their bargaining power.
Thus, it was strategic for NRM to put in place various committees to look into the petitions and complaints by those who lost or are aggrieved as a result of the outcome of the 2020 NRM primary elections.
NRM should borrow a leaf from the United States of America where voters in red states and blue states have predominantly chosen the Republican Party (red) and Democratic Party (blue) candidates, respectively.
In a multiparty political dispensation, it’s time NRM and other parties considered independents as another form of political organisation and ensured that in all constituencies, independent candidates are defeated.
Most independents are NRM leaning as they first participate in NRM Primaries. Thus, they hide under NRM and promote themselves as independent candidates within NRM and seek support from NRM voters.
NRM Leadership right from the NRM Chairman to the village Chairman must come up with a strong awareness program to educate NRM voters and make it clear to all NRM voters not vote for any independent candidate i.e. independents should be placed in the same category as opposition.
For this to be viable, NRM should clearly state that it shall not work with independent MPs and the voters in the constituencies should get this message directly from the NRM Presidential Candidate and the various NRM leaders i.e. right from the Central Executive Committee up to the village committee.
The continued gesture of NRM extending an olive branch to independent MPs has given NRM candidates in the primaries the option of planning to run as independents even before the elections are conducted.
It’s common to hear many candidates say if I am not declared winner I shall run as an independent candidate. As they say, “you cannot have your cake and eat.”
The magic trick is in NRM shifting focus from independent candidates to voters and making it hard for voters to vote for independent candidates in NRM strongholds.
Once this succeeds then it will not only be a big milestone for NRM as a party but also for multiparty democracy.
The writer is a former presidential candidate, and was a candidate in the Ibanda Municipality parliamentary NRM primary election
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