There has been a flurry of political activity in the last two weeks that leave no doubt that battle lines are being drawn ahead of the 2016 polls.
First off Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Major General Mugisha Muntu took greater control of the party by ditching MP Nandala Mafabi as leader of the opposition in parliament. He later on shuffled parliamentary committee leaders.
Then the NRM caucus went on what was expected to be a routine retreat to Kyankwanzi and threw the cat among the pigeons by a unanimous resolution to have President Yoweri Museveni unopposed as party flag bearer.
There is still a lot of paper work to be gone through before Museveni is formally adopted by the party but a perception has been created and one other challengers will struggle to erode.
Outside the party despite its internal issue, an NRM united in purpose so early in the game – it’s about 24 months before the elections, could be a nightmare to go up against.
With the presidential flag bearer decided for all practical purposes it will be interesting to see whether the party can resolve the MP nominations with such decisiveness though one can expect the squabbling prior to the last election will replay itself this time around.
It is still early days but two major themes are likely to play out in the run up to 2016.
For the opposition and FDC in particular, can they build a national structure to deploy? As it is now the older parties the Democratic Party (DP), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) are hobbled by leadership challenges and an inertia that has seen them falling out of public view since 2011. For FDC the recent moves suggest Muntu is creating a party in his image – quiet but calculating, unassuming but unafraid to take on the establishment. The days of bluster and grandstanding may be over, at least for the time being.
The issue of forming an opposition will come up and one can expect frenetic efforts in the coming months to cobble together a semblance of a coalition. However without a national network to counter the NRM’s we can expect the same results from previous elections.
In the NRM its longevity could be its greatest advantage and greatest liability. An asset because they can call on a time tested network, the 2016 poll will be its fifth election. The LC system maybe broken down but there are thousands of NRM “faithful” willing to throw in their lot with the yellow party, for a fee of course.
The challenge of the Movement and why acrimonious primaries for parliamentary are inevitable is that ever younger aspirants are coming through to challenge incumbents many of whom have held their seats for more than a decade. Everybody likes a winner and in many instances winning the NRM primaries is a sure deal for winning the parliamentary seat for the constituency.
For the Movement too this will be a particularly vicious primary election because with Museveni winding down the clock – the constitution puts the ceiling on presidential candidates at 75, one has to be at the center of things to be considered when the transition is being massaged.
And finally one can expect the “senior leaders within presidential ambitions” – top quote the Kyankwanzi resolution, to slink off to lick their wounds but to regroup and try and make a last ditch attempt to be the parties torch bearer over the next two years.
If there was any doubt that the campaigns were on the events of the last week dispel any such illusions.