Monday, December 13, 2010

Is opposition prepared for a Museveni win?

This deep question was asked by Benjamin Rukwengye in The Observer today.

The prevailing calmness we are currently enjoying as different candidates crisscross the country in their vote hunting bid must not be taken for granted.

This is especially seeing that it is a tremendous improvement from the last two national polls (2001 and 2006) which were marred by violence, anxiety and uncertainty.

Our only prayer should be that the post-February 2011 period turns out to be quite different from what transpired in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and most recently, Ivory Coast.

Given the varied history of most African states - colonial differences, political leadership (some like Nigeria have had as many as five military coups while others like Botswana have been under civilian rule throughout) - electoral dynamics are unique to specific countries.

But the issues that stock the fire of electoral chaos are usually the same. These include the use of inflammatory language, defying of lawful directives, and preaching confrontation.

Incumbents present themselves as infallible and inextricable from office, while the opposition prepares their supporters to refuse the outcome of elections, even when it reflects the will of the majority. It is this that has led to the contestation of results in the above countries, even in more renowned African democracies like Tanzania where Dr Wilbrod Slaa rejected President Jakaya Kikwete’s win last month.

It is this kind of situation that we ought to worry about most in Uganda. Whereas President Museveni is quoted to have spoken about his readiness to cede power and go to Rwakitura in the event that he loses, one gets the feeling that the opposition is slowly but surely preparing its supporters to reject the results, should the incumbent win and especially since some political analysts are predicting an easier victory for him this time.

The analysts argue that Museveni’s win would be largely thanks to a disorganised opposition and their lack of articulation of issues, coupled with the fading charisma that IPC presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, once commanded.

The opposition has continued to defy logic by making reckless statements and acting irrationally in a bid to prove that they can force events whenever they want to. Press reports have quoted some of its leaders resolving to go ahead and announce their own election results in defiance of the prevailing electoral laws that bar anybody else apart from the Electoral Commission from doing so.

These politicians are behaving like a student who goes to school, attends classes based on a curriculum prepared by an examiner, registers to sit for the exams prepared by the same body and hands in his papers for marking, but then says he will declare his own results because he does not trust the body’s impartiality!
Why take part in a process whose outcome you are not ready to accept?

Submitting your destiny to institutions like the Electoral Commission whose authority you have severally undermined then becomes foolhardy.

Incidents of reckless politicking which involve making statements or abetting actions that are unlawful, daring law enforcement agencies to react - in effect creating a recipe for potential chaos - must be frowned upon by the voters.

The opposition has based its agenda on criticising the apparent breakdown of institutions in the country but unsurprisingly, they have not done much to help rebuild the glory and respect that these institutions deserve.

By defying directives from institutions like the Police and Electoral Commission, the opposition is bent on undermining the authority of the same institutions they say are in dire straits and need redemption. In effect, they are killing the little they claim exists.

Hopefully, the current peaceful campaigns won’t turn out to be merely a case of the proverbial calm before a storm.

We have lots of examples within the region and around the continent from which we can pick valuable lessons. Ghana and South Africa have given us the possibility that peaceful elections can be held, and in the case of Ghana, that a party in power can lose an election.

Kenya and Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast, on the other hand, served us a different picture of what can happen when politicians get greedy and reckless.

Ivory Coast should be the ultimate lesson for every Ugandan on what a country can come to when left to the whims of self-seeking politicians. Losers and victors alike, let us all respect the will of those that turn up to cast their votes. Whatever happens, the choice is ours to make. But most importantly, let’s put our country before self.

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