At the end of last December, this column made a bold suggestion towards amending the chaotic pretense to democracy, characterized by the use of political parties, in the exercise of power.
The piece, titled, “Amend Laws to Remove Political Parties, Put Individual Merit”, was a harbinger intended to arouse serious practical political thought; and engender change in the conduct of elections.
Barely four months down this political conversation, none other than some of the luminaries in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), have cottoned to the idea, albeit, one might regard, in a convoluted fashion. This follows the rather dismal performane of NRM in the recent presidential and parliamentary elections, even though it was bolstered by characteristic State control.
One apparatchik termed it: “The party [is] in a very difficult situation. Support has been declining even in areas where we have previously enjoyed a lot of support. That calls for deliberate interventions….” This is an indication of the amorphous nature of a party and its encumbrance towards serving the people.
The same commentator added that, “Buganda and Busoga [are] very critical, given the big populations they have. It, therefore, becomes important that the party establishes why it performed badly in the two regions.”
An indicator for the bad performance, is shown by what appears to be a contradictory nature of the result in one Busoga district – Kamuli.
It is where the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga hails from. Accordingly, “[Museveni] strangely lost in Kamuli District, which re-elected Speaker Rebecca Kadaga with a landslide.
This is the exact scenario the problem of, party versus individual merit, poses. Both Museveni and Kadaga are NRM lunimaries. If “parliamentary” NRM Kadaga won in the constituency, why would “presidential” NRM Museveni lose in the same constituency?
The inescapable conclusion is that the voters were focused more on the personalities than on the party.
In this instance, the lack of service delivery cannot be the excuse. That is the argument NRM apparatchiks, like Daudi Migereko, want the people to believe. But it is better to posit the attraction of the “individual merit” other than else, in which Museveni is better placed to address than would Kadaga.
And so-on and so-forth. In Buganda, as much as one would like to point to parties, it does not add up for voters to cast away, an otherwise influential person and position, of the vice-presidency, or minister, in favour of a political novice. It means the practice, or the integrity, of the system is moribund. Thus, there is need for an ideological and institutional re-alignmernt.
If one were to adopt the “Individual Merit” system, in the Ugandan political context, this would mean that the 1995 Constitution has to be amended to remove the articles on political parties.
This point of view, in the former column, cited that, “The initial thing will be to take cognizance of articles in the constitutions that tend to favour divisions and partisanship…. political parties, as the vehicles to garner political power for leadership,… are obviously divisive.”
It further argued: “It would be even better for the practice in Parliament; there would be no caucuses, which are basic areas for gerrymandering the citizens’ lives. Any agreements among the various constituencies would be specifically in the interest of their areas, which would be patterned by agreements in other subsequent areas.” Needless to say, this is in reference to the socio-economic transformation.
Therefore, the new-comer Naional Unity Platform (NUP) parliamentarians, should carefully look at these provisions with a view to bolstering their individual performances in the respective constituencies, such that they continue to reflect the ascendancy of People Power.
The voters definitely considered Robert Kyagulanyi, more as Bobi Wine, the musician, than as an experienced political adminstrator, which he has not been tested at.
And so, when one ties up this opinion with Kadaga’s individual performance in Kamuli, against that of her NRM party, it becomes significant that the electorate looked more at the merit she exuded as a person, perhaps more than, as the Speaker of Parliament, in disregard for the role she plays and the backing of her party.
There are obviously other situations like this, but this case is clearly pertinent.
In fact, in other instances, the reverse became true. Notable is the case of Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, the Minister of State for Higher Education. When he was the headmaster of Namugongo Secondary School, he was extremely popular; and the presence he presented as such, propelled him into politics. But because he has been smeared by his association in his party,
e was trounced in the poll.
The wager is that, had he stood as Muyingo, the personalty, that reference to his salutary school mangement, would have stood him in good stead.
The assessment of the recently-concluded poll by the NRM will be interesting if they come to a similar conclusion.
The Minister of State for Tourism, who is the party vice-chairperson in the Buganda region, Mr Godfrey Kiwanda, is already on this exercise. He says that they are looking at how “different issues affected the outcome of the election in Buganda.”
It is believable that one of those issues he looks at, is the “individual merit”, even though his accent is more on “issues like sectarianism, the brutality of the Police and other forces, standards of living, evictions and others, like forcing of the fishing communities out of the waters, had impacted on the election,” Kiwanda adds.
That is not to say, he should disegard those, too. But individual merit now stands out like a sore finger.