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How the opposition lost the 2016 election victory

The Ugandan opposition might have lost 2016 elections already. Ugandan opposition may not
catch up with NRM for 2016 showdown. Opposition seems disorganised and yet there is not
much time left to 2016 general elections. Opposition seems to have failed to critically assess
their might and opportunities available to leverage on during the electoral process to win the
2016 elections.
The opposition buried themselves alive by starting the talk about possible boycott of 2016
elections if some reforms are not implemented. The opposition also went against the National
identity card project, and Voter register update exercise. Some of their Supporters may have
obviously not embraced the exercises. The fact is that the old register was abandoned. Those
who registered for the National identity card were the ones considered and those who
registered a fresh. NRM was busy engaging members and reminding them of the deadline.
Uganda Electoral commission rolled out a general voter register update exercise in April this
year. Opposition were simply not actively involved in the voter register update exercise. This
would be the time for the opposition to help draw more supporters and encourage them to
participate in the exercise. The opposition questioned the voter register of the Electoral
commission. The call on masses to register or update their details was mainly done by civil
society, NRM and the Electoral commission. This happened as some sections of the
opposition threatened to boycott 2016 elections if their desired reforms are not out. It is
possible the would-be voters gave up on the exercise.
There is a growing evidence of low confidence in electoral processes by Ugandan opposition
as reported by media. Registration as opposed to boycott would have counted. The push for
voter support and registration by opposition political parties explains the success in the recent
Nigerian presidential elections. Rallying more eligible voters especially the urban corporate
to register by opposition parties may have had the only silver bullet to their victory in 2016
An updated voter register translates into a credible Electoral commission which result in a
free and fair electoral process. Every voter determines outcomes of elections. Elections are
just like lottery, you can not expect a jackpot without participation. Change is possible with
voting. Increasingly, we have seen incumbents losing in Africa which is not common with the
latest example being former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan who lost to opposition.
Voter register update exercise addresses barriers to voting. For example the challenge of lack
of transportation is solved by eligible voters choosing their preferred voting stations.
Everyone has a right to vote but they have to do what it takes. You may have the right to vote
but the decision cannot be exercised. You do not want to turn up on election day and you are
told you can not vote because your polling station is miles away or because your details were
never verified.
The greatest bottleneck to opposition victory in 2016 will be strategy and how it will be
implemented? Strategy enables you to identify objectives and how to achieve the specific
objectives. However, Opposition seems to shift goal posts every now and day. One day they

are saying they will participate in elections, the following day someone is talking about
boycott. Obviously this shows lack of seriousness on the side of opposition parties.
Opposition agendas still lack relevance to the average Ugandan. Why insist on electoral
reforms when corruption would be a soft target to decampaign NRM. Government does not
have many weaknesses with elections as opposed to service delivery. What if electoral
reforms are effected overnight? What will opposition be left with? Some of the relevant
issues of reform opposition should be focusing on is poor service delivery .At least a normal
Ugandan will relate with that not electoral reforms. Walk to work was successful because it
was emotionally appealing to high standards of living as a result of inflation.
Most of the challenges of opposition have not been addressed as they should have. For
example Crowd funding. Lack of funds could be solved through Ettoffaali project of
sorts. They can raise money to mobilise. Nationwide opposition membership drives if well
managed can raise revenue from member cards and sale of party branded items. Opposition
continues to focus all their energy on electoral commission reform than preparing for 2016
The opposition has failed on Media relations which would help in mobilising support and
keeping up the momentum. Abraham Lincoln once said What kills a skunk is the publicity
it gives itself. We all know that social media can drive awareness quickly. There is still
inadequate media attention. Opposition should explore more activities that could get them
media coverage at least on a daily. Social media presence of the Uganda opposition leaves a
lot to be desired.
The opposition rushed to unveil a coalition in Kampala recently. The coalition called
Democratic Alliance, brings together opposition parties, individuals, pressure groups , civil
society groups, and religious groups. The Coalition membership is so diverse that there will
be many irreconcilable differences that may shock it before the elections. Most of the
members of the alliance like UPC are yet to resolve internal fights. Member groups are not at
the same level of followers and funding. How will the leadership be shared without sidelining
the less influential groups? Religious perspective of political engagement may not welcome
demonstrations. Opposition fails to identify and stick to the best presidential Candidate. Dr.
Besigye is still a famous figure of Ugandan opposition and should remain as a bet. They
signed a protocol early enough even before NRM got all their flag bearers. The Alliance
members agreed to field joint candidates for selected electoral positions. The signed
agreement protocol is great on paper but hard to implement.
Where on earth has opposition delivered democracy by boycotting elections? The coalition
was launched and it has since gone quiet. Ugandan Media is no longer focusing on the
coalition because they seem to have launched without actual activity plans. Hope the
opposition takes lessons from the past seriously early enough.
Ivan .N.Baliboola
PR and organizational diagnosis specialist