News Updated at E-society Kasese
Assessing the loss. Top ruling party officials holed up in meetings to review defeat in the Kasese Woman MP by-election, won by FDC’s Winfred Kiiza.
The ruling NRM party has had a string of by-election losses.
Of seven by-elections, the opposition has scored victory in six. In Jinja, FDC’s Paul Mwiru trounced NRM’s Igeme Nabeta.
FDC’s Oddo Tayebwa defeated NRM’s Nasser Basajjabalaba in Bushenyi Municipality, while the Democratic Party has gained three seats with youth winger Brenda Nabukenya deposing NRM’s Rebecca Nalwanga in Luwero, Muhammad Kawuma trouncing NRM’s Patience Mubangizi to retain Entebbe Municipality while Mathias Nsubuga, the party secretary general regained the Bukoto South seat beating NRM’s Alintuma Nsambu.
The re-election of opposition Forum for Democratic Change candidate Winfred Kiiza as the Kasese District Woman Member of Parliament with a landslide appeared yesterday to have thrown the ruling National Resistance Movement party into panic.
This newspaper understands that top party stalwarts, some hankered down in Kasese and others in Kampala, were locked in a series of meetings since the declaration of Ms Kiiza’s resounding victory early yesterday morning.
Sources indicated that the meetings were characterised by attempts to comprehend why the opposition has white-washed the ruling party at yet another parliamentary by-election.
Ms Kiiza trounced her closest challenger, NRM’s Rehema Muhindo, with a commanding 61.3 per cent—and a margin of close to 40,000 votes between the two women.
The result marks six wins for the opposition out of seven parliamentary by-elections held in the current term of the 9th Parliament.
NRM party spokesperson Karooro Okurut, who was attending one of the soul-searching meetings, said she was not at liberty to comment on the Kasese defeat and said a decision was taken to leave that responsibility to the party’s Deputy Secretary General, Ms Dorothy Hyuha, who is camped in Kasese.
Ms Hyuha later told Daily Monitor that the party was yet to “appreciate” the outcome of the Kasese vote and was still analysing returns from various poll stations before making a conclusive analysis of its misfortune.
“I cannot easily appreciate that this is the real outcome of this election,” she said. “We are still analysing the situation.” However, Ms Hyuha was coy when asked to say what could have inspired this latest by-election defeat.
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NRM in crisis meet after Kasese defeat
“Every by-election has had its own peculiar situation and challenges,” she said, dismissing suggestions that the electoral losses are a reflection of waning support for President Museveni and his administration.
“It cannot be a worry. Are you aware that in Parliament with slightly over 300 MPs we [NRM] have 256? There are parties like Conservative Party which have one member and they are represented,” she said, adding, “Kasese has had its own challenges; the geography, the past experience.”
Although the ruling party maintains that these losses may not matter given its numerical strength in the House, the opposition victories are the most current indicator of the NRM’s popularity in places they were understood to be competitive.
“There are serious problems in NRM, starting from the secretariat to the leadership at grassroots level. They are divided,” said veteran politician Aggrey Awori.
His comments echo repeated reservations by party faithful over the mobilisation skills of the party’s Secretary General, Mr Amama Mbabazi, and his team.
Touted by many as aloof and lacking the verve to sway voters, Mr Mbabazi has not been seen in the campaign trenches, preferring instead to keep to the demands of his Prime Minister’s job while President Museveni, labelled the charmer-in-chief, has hit the campaign trail to draw in the votes.
At a recent meeting with ruling party mobilisers in Buganda region, however, President Museveni said he would appoint a substantive full time secretary general on grounds that the party was losing many by-elections due to lack of an active secretary general.
However, NRM Vice Chairman for Eastern Region, Mr Mike Mukula, said it would be wrong to blame Mr Mbabazi for the party’s recent misfortunes even when the presence of President Museveni campaigning for party candidates has done little to sway voters.
“I wouldn’t blame the Secretary General. This is even beyond the Secretary General,” he said. “Now, if a bigger gun [Museveni] goes to campaign, who is the secretary general?”
Mr David Bahati, the acting NRM caucus chairman in Parliament, yesterday said the party’s performance in recent by-elections had left stalwarts agreed on “the need to strengthen the functionality of the Secretariat.”