Some losers in the recently held NRM party Parliamentary primaries have come out to blame the party’s National Chairman and 2021 Presidential flagbearer, President Yoweri Museveni, for their loss in the highly competitive exercise. Some have gone as far as accusing him of working for NRM’s downfall. Some are considering taking legal action against him.
Their annoyance stems from Museveni’s last minute guidance to the effect that (even) members of NRM who were not in the “yellow book” party register should be allowed to vote in the primaries. This guidance was intended to accommodate every NRM member and supporter who would otherwise have been disefranchised if the registrars went strictly by those whose names appeared on the register.
The losers believe that they were disadvantaged by this move since they had campaigned in a narrow constituency of registered voters.
However, not everybody is complaining about the method. In the end, it worked in NRM’s interest to accommodate those who would otherwise ally with the opposition feeling rejected by the party they so love and support. It is wrong to blame Museveni instead of thanking him.
Those who are considering suing him are free to seek legal redress but first they should refer to the party Constitution which establishes the office of the NRM National Chairman and stipulates his role. Under Chapter 4, Article 14, Clause I, Paragraph H which lays out the functions of the National Chairman, it says that the office holder can do anything necessary for the good of the NRM.
Do the aggrieved want to state, without fear of contradiction, that President Museveni, acting as NRM National Chairman did not have the party’s interests at heart when he offered the guidance that he did? The party is made of people and as long as he was keeping NRM’s people within its processes, he cannot have been working against the party and should not be blamed.
Blame should go to greedy politicians who use their positions, weight and financial muscle to influence registrars to manipulate registers in their constituencies to serve their personal interests. What these manipulators don’t know is that if you lock out many would be voters from NRM, they can be taken up by the opposition which capitalises on their disgruntlement.
However, much of the problem originated in 2015 when certain persons were tasked with building a party register and they messed up the process. The roll ad 12million voters but only 5 million voted. Where did the rest go? It means that they were likely locked out and ended up voting “wrong”.
The matter of the register came up last year during a meeting by the party leadership and the plan was to go digital; that is to say, have an e-register but this was disrupted by Covid-19.
Since it was agreed that elections have to take place (scientifically) despite the pandemic, the hardcopy “yellow book” had to remain in use. On the eve elections, it became apparent that certain actors had had influenced registrars in certain constituencies and had omitted names of people they deemed to be supporters of their rivals. These complaints were brought to the attention of the National Chairman and he got concerned and yet time was not on the party’s side.
In accordance with Chapter referred to above, Museveni took a decision to direct that all those who are known members of the party but whose names may be missing in the register should be allowed to vote. The decision was totally in good faith and intended to manage a crisis, otherwise the primaries would have been a small attempt at democracy, resulting in deceptive results that do not reflect the true will of constituents.
Whoever wishes to challenge powers allotted to the National Chairman in NRM can commence the process to amend the party Constitution to withdraw those powers but as of now, Museveni enjoys such powers which he exercises in consultation with other relevant party organs. Any grievance should first get addressed within such a framework.
However, sympathy goes to losers and the aggrieved because they placed hope and trust in the party register and, perhaps, campaigned within those boundaries unaware that the electorate was shifting. Corrupt registrars and greedy politicians are to blame for instigating the mess in the register necessitating the intervention of Museveni to prevent the party from losing its broad base.
Dr. Tanga Odoi should take stern and exemplary action against those found to have aided fraud and other acts that bring into question NRM’s great democratic and all-inclusive record. Guidelines were issued. Who are those who flouted them and why? If criminality is unearthed in their actions, as I believe it will, due action should be taken and the name of the party redeemed.
I urge the aggrieved not to turn their backs on Museveni or the party because the opposition is much worse off and can only count on snatching neglected supporters of NRM. We must not donate any!
The author is a Presidential Assistant in Charge of Media Management
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