It is now one week and a half since the campaigns at all levels commenced, filled with fanfare, rosy speeches, processions in some instances, and at the end of last week, climaxed with pandemonium.
What is clear though is that all sides have had a taste of their depth in the field of the electorates and could have positives to take on from there.
However, as the campaigns proceed from corner to corner, specific factors remain outstanding, and these could be primary in deciding the race to State House and arguably the different political races in other elective positions.
The vote of the youth, the role of the media, and the COVID-19 pandemic have been the glaring factors in this case, and their elimination from this campaign could render it worthless.
How the different political camps have set up in the face of the three factors would definitely offer them an edge going into the elections in January.
It remains to be seen whether political kingmakers, power brokers, campaign teams will actually play clear the influence of the three main dimensions/factors of 2021 General Elections, to be held under a new normal.
The Youth Factor
The number of voters in this election stands at 17.7million according to Electoral Commission (EC), and of these, at least 9.8 million are youth.
9.8 million votes automatically give any presidential candidate more than 50 percent of the required vote and they would be swearing in by May.
The National Unity Platform has started a campaign to raise at least 10million votes for their candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine.
It is important to note that Bobi Wine’s biggest appeal lies within the youth, who see him as their own, he appeals to them generally.
But it would be unrealistic to claim that Bobi Wine would be voted by all the 9.8 million.
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidate Yoweri Museveni was nominated and seconded by the youth, to send a signal that his candidature is for the youth.
Speaking after the event, NRM youth league chairman Gaddafi Nassur indicated that the youth will choose the NRM because it is more engaging and realistic to their struggle.
Indeed, the NRM overwhelmingly won the National Youth Elections and was a dominant factor in the National Youth Council polls where it swept all but two positions.
The NRM handed in five (5) million signatures to endorse Museveni’s candidature. So irrespective of the demographics that tendered in their signatures, should NRM ensure the 5 million vote Museveni, he needs only an extra 4 million voters elsewhere and he will be in State House by midday.
It is key to note that NRM has the most organized structures, over 30 people per village are subscribed to the NRM leadership, multiply that with the over 70,000 villages and NRM is the most likely winner of next year’s election.
On the other hand, Tumukunde claims virgin voters are a deciding factor, and these are mostly the elite and youth, and these will be his campaign target, but Tumukunde is far away from the race.
The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat finds himself in a strange position, for years the FDC has been in charge of the disgruntled youth under doyen Kizza Besigye.
However, the wind has swept all to NUP, leaving the opposition party with only structures, will the structures come up later to rescue them? They have a few more days to seek.
Social media and mainstream media could play a great role but the mainstream remains with an upper hand.
There are about a 2.5million people on Facebook and less than a million on Twitter in Uganda. On the available 2.5million, almost a million are abroad while 70% of the remaining number is situated around Kampala, Wakiso, and Entebbe.
The biggest number of these are females and youth. The fact is, social media rarely or never decides who goes to the state house in Uganda/Africa, but it is a good spin tool as many have the power to broadcast using their keyboards.
Social media can decide to disrupt the process and becomes the cause of the general outlook post-elections. The reason it had to be switched in Tanzania.
What remains is the mainstream, the TVs, local radio stations in different communities, what are they broadcasting, which candidate are they giving more airplay?
Museveni has stuck to a purely scientific campaign, concentrating on media briefings on radio stations translated to the local language.
On top of this, the government wants to procure radios for villagers, this will add to the number of recipients of Museveni’s message. This is on top of having his addresses aired live on UBC and NBS TV each day
Hence, as it stands now, Museveni and NRM have a lion’s share of the media presence in mainstream and it is possible they can use this to their advantage on the road to State House.
The pandemic has brought mixed fortunes for different people, while some have benefited, a big number has had a turn around on luck terms, collapsing in business and getting negatively impacted by the pandemic and proceeding lockdown.
These are vulnerable to incentives to vote or they are surely angry with the establishment and could fall the other side.
What is true is that the pandemic has dictated the means of the campaign, but one candidate remains adamant and continues gathering big numbers in processions and rallies.
Should a scenario happen that that particular camp is affected by the pandemic, this would completely work against their campaign and would cause doubt amongst their supporters.
This is why Museveni keeps reminding and chest-thumping that he most cares for the lives of the people by doing a completely scientific campaign.
Aside from all that, the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the naturality of the campaigns and it is not possible to reach voters at the same rate as would be before the pandemic given the time frame.
Honestly speaking, the pandemic strictly works for President Museveni and the NRM, how they use it to their advantage has remained close to their chest.
The three factors are so critical that they will decide the winner of the 2021 Presidential election. It won’t be the campaign messages/Manifestos which will determine the voting for or against certain Candidates.
It is the responsibility of the participating political parties or Individuals to sit down and honestly digest their approaches towards these 3 deciders of the 2021 Presidential election.
Mutua is an NRM Activist, NALI Core Media Cadre
Senior Member of National Patriotism Corp- Ug