The Rukungiri by-election only attests to what political formations can gain if they are united. The opposition seemed united from the very on-set of the by-election; and the NRM was only able to resolve internal divisions just a couple of days to the election date.
These had implications on who was bound to take the day.
Secondly, the religious factor was eminent in this election. Candidates exploited religious denomination lines during campaigns.
Thirdly, this election became inevitably aggressive considering that it was handled by the political big wigs from both the NRM and the opposition.
Key NRM figures – retired and those in active politics campaigned for the NRM leaning candidates. Notable figures from the opposition political parties were on ground to tenaciously campaign for the FDC candidate, and protect the vote even in the remote villages of Rukungiri.
The Electoral Commission distinguished itself as a professional administrator and arbiter of the election despite the generally tense context in which the election was conducted.
Although there was visible security deployment in most urban areas in Rukungiri, the presence of security personnel in most places was not of an intrusive nature.
However, in some places (especially in the rural areas), security involvement in the election almost threatened the credibility of the process.
The competitiveness of the election coupled with the historical context of Rukungiri drew active participation from the local voters. This accounts for the generally high voter turn out – about 57%. For a by-election, this is comparatively a high voter turn out.
This by-election however continued to expose the challenges of elections in Uganda, such as: the soaring cost of several elections, electoral violence, intimidation, vote rigging, voter bribery, misuse of state resources during campaigns, the question of hate speech during elections, among others.
These vices reared their ugly head again in this election. Fixing these challenges is fundamental to the restoration of normality and respect for rule of law in Uganda.
The author is coordinator of the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU)