Monday, November 9, 2015


A presidential candidate needs to win 50%+1 vote of the popular vote to be declared winner. If this is not achieved by any candidate a run off is scheduled in which the two top contenders face off.

Since 1996, when the current constitution was in effect, President Yoweri Museveni has been in little danger of suffering a runoff. His best showing was in 1996 when he won 75.5 percent of valid votes and his worst showing was ten years later in 2006 when he managed 59.26 percent of the vote.

In more advanced democracies these numbers would qualify as resounding or even landslide victories.

Following nominations Museveni and Kizza Besigye will face off for the fourth time in as many outings, but this time former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has thrown his hat into the ring.

Mbabazi’s previous prominent position in the NRM, made him one to watch out for, but observers were dubious about the credibility of his challenge divorced from the structure of the NRM.

Mbabazi’s rise to prominence as the possible single opposition challenger and the size of his post-nomination rally at Nakivubo sent strategists back to drawing table. Mbabazi, known more as a backroom operator than a presser of the flesh, may have raised the very real possibility of a run off for the first time in the last twenty years.

"A caveat on political rally numbers as they relate to voting patterns is in order at this point.
Besigye and his predecessor then Democratic Party president Paul Ssemogerere have always managed to muster massive crowds in Kampala and around the country but have struggled to manage a third of the cast votes when ballots hit the box...

Rally crowds are good for building the perception that one is a real contender but the crowds that make up these rallies include non-voters, curious types who just want to see the candidate and even people from other camps, including those drives who have to go along with the crowd to get to where they were going initially.

That being said however, in all elections since 1996 no third candidate was able to create a crowd that rivalled that of Museveni or Besigye, which puts Mbabazi in a special position, as king maker if he can sustain the perceived momentum.

Perceived because one campaign rally does not a full campaign make.

Museveni has canvassed this country multiple times in the last five years, Besigye has done it at least once in the same period,  when he was campaigning to be the flag bearer of the FDC (Forum for Democratic Change) party their crowds were par for the course.

Hypothetically speaking we know who make up Museveni’s crowds – establishment supporters who have done well in this administration and want a continuation of the good times (the same as supporters of the status quo around the world). Besigye’s support base is made up of those who have found themselves out in the cold, and have worked out their best chance at the high table is to upset the status quo ( like any other major political challengers around the world).

Then the question would be where would Mbabazi’s numbers come from?

The tone of his campaign suggests that he is targeting the disgruntled in the NRM, as well as opposition members who think a Besigye challenge will end in predictable defeat.

"There is an interesting number that one imagines all the candidates are watching and that is the number of those who are registered voters who do not vote. These fence seaters have been growing in proportion since 2001 when it was at its lowest of 25 percent. In 2011 the figure was about 45 percent...

Conventional wisdom has it that these are normally aggrieved with the government but see no worthy alternative for their vote.

Is this the year that the ambivalent come off the fence?

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