By Moses Baguma
Mr. Museveni’s campaigning strategy and how it’s likely to play to his advantage.
The 2020/1 President Yoweri Museveni campaign to retain his seat has been the most unusual Ugandans have witnessed yet.
Unlike the other presidential candidates in the race, President Museveni has steered clear of huge rallies during his campaigns.
It could be that he’s personally being cautious about covid-19, given his age(76), which falls under the high risk age for covid-19.
Museveni’s recent campaign style adds further credibility to his yearlong efforts to curb the spread of Coronavirus in Uganda. If he had acted otherwise, it could mean that his efforts were meaningless or that he has recently developed a new opinion about the disease.
But here is the point many people have missed about President Museveni’s decision to hold small campaign meetings. They play to his strengths.
To an average Ugandan voter, sizeable crowds are synonymous with winning an election or at least getting a reasonable number of votes. We’ve all heard about ferrying people to make sizeable crowds before and we saw a photo, apparently taken during Julius Malema’s manifesto launch being uploaded on Bobi Wine’s social media pages – days after Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine had started his campaigns. All those actions are intended to portray a particular candidate stronger.
By refusing to play the crowd size competition with his rival Bobi Wine, Museveni has denied the opposition that early psychological goal. Bobi Wine’s supporters cannot point out that Museveni is attracting smaller crowds than their candidate and anticipate victory.
It is not that crowds have refused to attend Museveni rallies, those who are impartial will think. President Museveni has asked them to stay at home and save their lives because he values their vote and lives.
The undecided voter is forced to weigh for themselves which candidate they will tick against in the ballot booth without the help of crowd size photos.
Mr. Kyagulanyi has cryptically has excited Ugandan voters by saying that if the election is rigged, they know what to do. His counterpart, Patrick Oboi Amuriat and his party FDC have openly talked about plan B and constantly expressed no faith in the electoral process.
I’m also among the Ugandans who believe that President Museveni has total control of the electoral process and therefore can’t be defeated in an election.
Following that, it’s highly possible that Patrick Oboi Amuriat, Kyagulanyi, Besigye and other opposition candidates will be speaking the same language and preaching the same thing (street protests), because they don’t have any faith in the judicial system, whether the rigging is real or perceived.
However, before they take to the streets, their supporters will have to ask themselves whether the protests are warranted. The fact that Museveni and his supporters decided to hide their hand by not holding open rallies will cause confusion. Could it be possible that Museveni remains more popular than they have imagined?
The surest metric opposition supporters and leaders could have used of crowd sizes will not be available to them. The science of how the election results were reached will not be wholly available in time when political leaders like Kyagulanyi and Amuriat need those figures to galvanise and energise their supporters.
In the end EC Chairman Justice Byabakama’s dully constituted institution may have the final word. That final word that President Museveni as their indirect employer would have already been privy too.
This is why Museveni’s decision not to play the crowd size game, a strategy forced on him by COVID-19, maybe his most genius move yet.