As I sit and ponder about things that pop into my mind, uninvited or otherwise, I ask myself questions in search of reason. Recently, this IPC thing has been evading my already crowded mind and I have been scratching my head to find rationale for its existence. What is the purpose of the IPC? Is it to win the 2011 elections or to serve some external purpose? If it is to win the 2011 elections then all the fuss is misguided because there is no basis to believe or even forecast that to win this election it needs a united opposition. However, if the purpose is to streamline the cash flow of external support into one entity then a united opposition is undesirable but justifiable.
The underlying reason behind most, if not all, political coalitions is to marshal together the individual weight of the separate parts into a single formidable force to win political power (elections) or fend off some political action. The IPC seeks, so we are told, to combine the weight of FDC, UPC, DP, JEEMA, CP, SDP, PPP and the numerous briefcase political parties to wrestle power from M7 and NRM. Forget that I have read somewhere that the man who passed through the furnace or rather made a successful hunt and is not willing to hand over the carcasses to anyone! Let us leave that alone and concentrate on the weight of our separate parts i.e. the major stakeholders in the IPC or rather the major opposition players in the Ugandan body politic. The dependable metrics to assess the weight of the opposition parties is to look at their performance in past presidential elections, presence in Parliament, Chairmanships at the District and other electoral offices. For my armchair analysis, I will stick with performance in past presidential elections and presence in Parliament.
In the past three presidential elections, these were the results (rigging is a constant): 1996 – YK Museveni 75.5%, PK Ssemogerere 22.3%, MK Mayanja 2.2%; in 2001 – YK Museveni 69.4%, Kizza Besigye 27.7%, Aggrey Awori 1.4%, MK Mayanja 1.0% and rest combined for 0.4%. In 2006, YK Museveni 59.26%, Kizza Besigye 37.39%, JS Kizito 1.58%, Bwanika 0.95%, M. Obote 0.82%. Now, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that the figures don’t add up to justify a coalition. If for example, there was a coalition in 2006 as some people argued then as they argue now; YK Museveni would have polled at round 59.26% and the IPC candidate would have pulled 40.74%. This would have been around the projection if 2001 figures were used as a snapshot into the future. If we rely on the 2006 results and the presidential election trend, we wouldn’t be faltered to conclude that 1) Museveni’s numbers will decline further, 2) Kizza Besigye’s numbers will climb and 3) the rest of the opposition will contribute around 4% of the vote. I intentionally say ‘Besigye’s numbers’ and not FDC because it is evident that it wasn’t the party that polled 37.39% of the national vote and only managed a meager 37 seats out of the 320 elective offices in parliament! Some might argue that that extra 4-8% of the vote that the rest of the opposition will likely contribute can mean the difference between an outright Kizza Besigye win and a runoff. To those, I say unto to you that if the election turns out to be that close, consider it lost. Don’t forget we dealing with a more stubborn and dangerous individual who wields an AK-47 in the midst of suffering of powerless natural disaster victims! Now imagine if Kibaki and Odinga can unleash such carnage, what do you think YKM can do?
Kenya, since 1992 presents a good example of a fertile ground coalition building among major opposition parties. In all the elections since Moi embraced multiparty politics, the opposition always stood a chance to dislodge him out power if only they could unity. Disunity in the Kenyan political opposition kept Moi in power until he bowed out gracefully in 2002. The presidential elections of 1992 when Moi bowed to multiparty politics had Moi (KANU) polling 36.4%, Kenneth Matiba (Ford-Asili) 26.0%, Mwai Kibaki (DP) 19.5%, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Ford-Kenya) 17.5%. The numbers were very agreeable to coalition building but the politics wasn’t and each went on its own in the 1997 elections. The 1997 elections had Moi emerge winner with 40.6% of the national vote while Mwa Kibaki (DP) polled 31.0%, Raila Odinga (NDP) 10.8%, Kijana Wamalwa (Ford-Kenya) 8.2%, Charity Ngilu (SDP) 7.9%. When finally the coalition materialized in 2002 in the name of National Rainbow Coalition, Mwa Kibaki garnered 61.3% of the vote and the former ruling party scrapped a miserable 20.2%. Of course, the election dynamics were greatly helped by the absence on the ballot of the Professor of Politics! The Kenyan opposition coalition succeeded because the separate individual parties had the strength that they previously failed to leverage. This cannot be said of the Ugandan opposition.
Kizza Besigye, will probably give YKM another run for his money but in the end (my prediction) the man who passed through the red furnace will emerge winner by means that we know so well. If by any chance, Kizza Besigye pulls off an Odinga or Tsvangirai, the political situation will probably be no different than in the countries of those respective gentlemen. The precedence of international community response to outright election rigging and its ensuing violence has been set. Kizza Besigye is the only individual in position to pull these scenarios, for the simple reason that he has built political capital that the other opposition leaders lack! If you look at a number of countries where the opposition has taken power, the eventual winner is the man or woman who has stood for the presidency more than once. The list includes Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Mwa Kibaki of Kenya, Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Felix Patasse of Central African Republic, Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe and Odinga of Kenya came tantalizingly close on their second attempt.
The IPC is not beneficial, actually detrimental, to the future of the other political parties other than FDC. Political parties such as DP and UPC that once commanded a large and strong constituency, as a matter of urgency, need to focus on rebuilding and reconnecting with their former members, sympathizers and the young people. It is during elections when political parties gauge their strength and the efficiency and effectiveness of their message and programs. DP and UPC should not waste time with the IPC; they have more pressing issues to deal with and their future to build. As a matter of fact, these parties shouldn’t field presidential candidates, those resources could be used to restructure and rebuild themselves. Only, it is unfortunate and disappointing to see leaders of DP and UPC go around proclaiming how they will win the next elections! By what miracle will DP and UPC jump from their last showing at the polls with 1.58% and .82% respectively? What indicators have led them to this belief? Have they swept all the by-elections since 2006? Anyhow, I am working from the assumption that they are running to win!