The race for the presidency arguably begun with the NRM Parliamentary caucus resolution last year that President’s Yoweri Museveni should be the party’s flag bearer going in to next year’s polls.
In the last few days the tempratures have decidedly heated up as former Prime minister Amama Mbabazi made his long awaited announcement that he would be seeking to be his party’s presidential flag bearer.
The Mbabazi announcement and the NRM’s reaction to it have arguably taken out the steam from a proposed coalition of the opposition.
But in this last week perennial presidential hopeful Kiiza Besigye had a change of heart and picked his nomination forms to represent his party the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and James Akena wrestled the leadership of the Uganda People’s Congress from Olara Otunnu, effectively confirming he will be running for the topmost office in the land in 2016.
The Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao indicated he would like to be his party’s champion again.
"Understandably all eyes or on the NRM, not only because of Mbabzi audacious grab for the top seat, but also because they remain the dominant political force in the country and able to determine the texture of the run up to 2016...
In the run up to the elections some or all of these questions have to be answered to give the electorate more clarity.
1. WHO WILL LEAD THE NRM INTO BATTLE?
Mbabazi is causing some discomfort in NRM circles but insiders, despite their loud protestations in public, are unsurprised. His choice to rival Museveni as the party’s candidate means, whichever way it turns out after the National Conference sometime in September, they will be on opposite sides of this contest. The odds are stacked heavily in Museveni’s favour to lead his party yet again. The perception has been that Mbabazi despite him not being wont to press the flesh and mix it with the masses, he wields a lot of influence thanks to his long stay at the top of the political pecking order, whether he can leverage this to mount a credible campaign is not a forgone conclusion.
2. WHO WILL BE THE OPPOSITION’S CHAMPION?
Prior to Mbabazi’s announcement taking the wind out of their sails the opposition announced it was working on fielding a single candidate. We have heard this before. Previous attempts at a coalition have come up empty handed as the individual ambitions, mutual distrust and a lack of coherent structure and plan got in the way. There is no indication that these stumbling blocks have been overcome. The unlikelihood of an opposition coalition there is the matter of a possible joining of the opposition by Mbabazi.
3. WILL THE NRM BE READY TO DO BATTLE AGAIN?
It is not clear that the fallout from the last elections have been smoothed over. Before the last election candidates who had lost their bid to be the NRM’s flag bearer at parliamentary level, run as independents many of them beating the official candidate. They swelled the numbers of the independents in the house and have over the last five year ingratiated themselves with the Movement.
In order to prevent a repeat the NRM amended its constitution to ensure this does not happen again. So the tempratures in the primaries to be decidedly hotter than in any other previous contest. Whether the NRM can recover from the ensuing fissures among its people and run a characteristically strong campaign yet again will be interesting to see.
As the days go by more questions may arise as the dynamics inside outside the NRM shift. It is still early days alliances are being mooted, crafted and tested, regardless there are interesting times ahead, over the next few months.