Over the last two weeks the New Vision has been running a poll that sampled people’s opinions on the Social, Political, Economic and Cultural issues in our society.
The poll, which randomly sampled more than 6,000 respondents from 43 districts around the country is bound to be a trigger for many other polls coming out in the lead up to the elections next year.
The poll showed among other things that President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling NRM party still dominate our political conscience. The opponents then flew into a frenzy, complete with frothing at the mouth in denouncing the poll as unreliable. The NRM did not get around to it but some of their leading lights were considering rubbishing the poll too, but for understating their boss’ and party’s popularity.
Interesting for me was the sampling of people’s opinions on what really exercises their minds about the conditions of their lives.
Health related issues came at the top, followed by the state of our roads, water and sanitation, poverty, security, education, employment and agricultural issues before corruption got mention. People were quite clear about what they saw as inadequacies in the social services and infrastructure, when quizzed further.
This threw up the contradiction, if these inadequacies were happening under the NRM’s watch how come the ruling party continued to be more popular than the opposition?...
Going by the results, which show that the overwhelming majority still think the NRM is best placed to sort out these issues it might mean things are improving generally – maybe not as fast as is wanted, and these improvements can be attributed to Museveni and the NRM. Or it could mean that for the vast majority of the voters they have known only the NRM administration so it could be a case of better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.
It would be interesting in subsequent polls to find out why the seeming contradiction.
I am convinced that the shortfalls in services and infrastructure are more an issue of corruption than inadequate resources but most people polled don’t seem to agree.
How can that be possible? There is no one who has not come face to face with corruption. Is it possible that we have become desensitised to graft, recognising it as the way to get things done, the new normal so to speak, to the point that it is not on top of our minds as this nation’s great challenge?
Obviously a cursory look at the symptoms that ail us is preventing us from drilling down to the root cause of our malaise.
Returning to Museveni’s numbers. I was not surprised, and expect subsequent well done polls will reflect the same, that he still leads his rivals. Even less so was I surprised that the margin of his lead seems unassailable too.
Things change but two things are feeding into this continued popularity of Museveni.
One, that as President he can, and does, canvass this country in the five years between elections. His facial recognition cannot be rivalled by anyone, and anything, bar the telecommunication companies’ logos. The voting process is not a scientific exercise and the one who is recognised is more likely to get the vote. It doesn’t happen for Museveni alone. Barack Obama or David Cameron don’t have to criss cross their countries pressing the flesh in between elections, but that is because they can reach most voters on television prime time, a similar advantage does not accrue to their rivals.
"And finally politics is not a popularity contest. The vast majority vote for one or the other person based on what they think they can benefit from them, Museveni has not been averse to play up this angle, urging electorates to vote his NRM MPs because the opposition ones just antagonise him and don’t push for projects to their areas....
But there are two groups beyond the usual suspects who would have more than a passing interest in the polls. I am speaking cynically here. There are his supporters who would not want him to have to big a lead over his rivals because then the incentive to release funds into the campaign wold be diminished. And then there are those across the floor, who would love to see him have a huge lead then they can go out and make a strong case for more and more cash to dislodge him from the top.
At the end of the day you need to follow the dollar to understand these things.