The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) primaries for parliament, municipal and district leaders have been literally raging across the country, throwing up moments of rib cracking humour, jaw dropping shock and spine chilling horror.
One can expect any fissures in the party to widen. For the winners of the primaries getting elected in the national elections is not a guarantee, as the expectation is that many failed aspirants will opt to run as independents in coming polls.
"Despite the chaos that was highlighted our TV sets there are several positives the NRM can take from the events of the last week. To begin with, not that there was any doubt, but NRM by choosing universal suffrage to weed out its flag bearers have demonstrated that they are a truly national party, to the extent that all but a handful of positions were contested for with passion and vigour...
That passion signals an engaged party base, not ambivalent about their desire to represent the party and their belief that the NRM was the best vehicle to further their personal ambition. Passion indicates energy and many times the difference between a winner and a loser is not the content of his proposition but the energy that he brings to the game. If the ruling party’s detractors were hope for a lackadaisical display they did not see it during these primaries.
And finally as a direct consequence of the above the party is finding it easy to renew itself as older serving members move on and newer blood makes an entrance. For a party with a desire to hang on to power well into the future this bloodletting is necessary if not critical if it is to keep in step with the changing demographic of the general population.
One of the reasons the old parties are snatching for relevance is that they are missing a generation or two in their ranks – through little fault of their own.
That being said there are also numerous warning signals the NRM has to take notice of.
As an indicator of the party’s organisational capabilities the several postponements of the polls and the mix ups where they occurred, should be a cause for concern internally, despite the positive spin its talking heads put on them.
"The bigger the organisation the better organised it has to be. There are too many moving parts, the danger being that an inadequacy at one seemingly unimportant site can cascade, building up to consume the entire organisation...
Related to that is the party’s ability to raise funds to run its programs. It has been reported that just under sh10b was collected from aspirants fees that is not half enough to run an election of the scale and scope that NRM has been involved in. The Electoral Commission, with about 50,000 polling stations has a budget of upwards of sh200b to run. The NRM reported that it had 60,000 polling stations. Arguably NRM has a cheaper process but it would be safe to say the registration fees it collected were but a drop in the ocean.
Resource mobilisation is important for the NRM going into the future, especially in the eventual event that they are no longer the ruling party and have to challenge a seating government. The party for populist reasons has shirked the route of having members subscribe to the party through membership fees, in the long run this is not a sustainable proposition. Various attempt to create companies which would fund the party have come up short and the NRM building continues to be on paper alone.
If this single issue is not addressed sooner than later, it is not unimaginable that the NRM will go the way of Kenya African National Union (KANU) in Kenya or Zambia’s United National Independence Party (UNIP), which would be sad and unnecessary.