By Andrew M. Mwenda
It has been a while since I last wrote to you, my friends in the radical extremist wing of FDC led by opposition presidential candidate for life and your cult leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye. I know you don’t like to be educated because you are proud of your ignorance. You stand against evidence in your opposition to President Yoweri Museveni in large part because it does not agree with your biases, prejudices and emotions.
As I have grown older, I have learnt that if you cannot count what is important, you make what you count important. You don’t want to count the number of candidates you field for MPs, LC5, LC3 chairpersons and other councilors during elections. Yet this is as an indicator of your electoral chances in presidential elections. So you have made allegations of vote rigging important.
Let me illustrate: one of you supporters who dared delve into statistical evidence wrote a long explanation of how there were many polling stations where voter turnout was 100% in the 2016 presidential elections. He also showed that in all of them Museveni got 90% of the votes and more. He said this is evidence of rigging. I agree with him.
But let us come to what is statistically important. There were 28,010 polling stations in the 2016 presidential elections. Of these, 127 reported 100 percent voter turnout. Total votes cast on these polling stations was 42,627. Now Museveni got 5,971,872 votes against Besigye who got 3,508,687 votes.
So even if we canceled all votes in these polling stations it would make almost no difference in the outcome. That is what is important. But you have made 100% voter turnout in 127 polling stations important even though its contribution to Museveni’s victory is statistically insignificant.
Let us use 90% and above voter turnout at polling stations as a proxy for vote rigging. A study of election trends shows that the conduct of elections in Uganda has been consistently improving with every election, thereby reducing opportunities and space for rigging.
For instance, in 2001, Uganda had 17,269 polling stations. Of these 155 (or 0.8%) had 100% turnout, more than 90% voter turnout were 2,731 (15.8%). In 2006, we had 19,786 polling stations. Polling stations reporting 100% voter turnout were 128 (or 0.6%); 90% and above voter turnout were 713 (3.6%). In 2011, Uganda had 23,968 polling stations. Those with 100% voter turnout were 123 (0.5%) and 559 polling stations reported 90% voter turnout and above. In 2016, Uganda had 28,080 polling stations and as I have said above 127 (0.4%) reported 100% voter turnout. Only in 540 (1.9%) polling stations did we have 90% voter turnout.
Look again at the numbers above and you will realize that Museveni ability to steal votes has been declining. This is another way of saying elections are increasingly free and fair. Yet you have decided such evidence is not important. Instead you have made your feelings important. This may give you psychological comfort but it does not help you develop a strategy to perform better at the next elections.
But there is more to learn from election trends. In 2001, 100% voter turnout was in 52 counties, with Nyabushozi and Kazo counties (both in Museveni’s home district of Kiruhura) contributing 18%. In 2006, it was in 42 counties, Kiruhura contributed 33%. In 2011, it was in 31 counties with Kiruhura contributing 37%. In 2016, polling stations reporting 100% voter turnout were in only 22 counties with Kiruhura making 47%.
Again these figures show that Museveni‘s ability to rig is shrinking to a narrow area of his Bahima ethnic kin in his district plus Nakaseke, which is a part of the cattle corridor. Meanwhile Besigye’s votes have become more generalized across the whole country, after he lost his base in northern Uganda.
Finally I want you to know that rigging favors the strong. Therefore voter turnout in those counties is evidence Museveni would win anyway by a large margin. His handlers rig for him because you are not present on the ground. That is why they don’t rig in Kampala and Gulu where you are strong.
Museveni used to tell me that you steal his votes l. I would laugh convinced his crazy. That is until I studied these elections in detail. For instance in 2001, there were 1,024 polling stations in 35 districts with 90% voter turnout and where Besigye got more than 90% of the vote. That was both a sign of Besigye’s strength and therefore the ability of his handlers to steal votes for him.
My advice: stop relying on your feelings to explain why you consistently elections so consistently. You will do yourselves a great deal of good by distancing your feelings from the subject and studying election trends with cold and detached logic. Emotions are important but they are not a source of or a substitute for good strategy.