Museveni will win faintly in 2026

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Museveni will win faintly in 2026
Tonny Tumukunde

The singer-turned-politician was among 10 opposition candidates and came second with 34.8% of the vote.

By Tonny Tumukunde

President Museveni, 79, who took power in 1986, is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders. He won a contested election with 58.6 percent of the vote in 2021, seeing off a stiff battle from 38-year-old former singer Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, who fired up a youthful population where three quarters are under 30 years old.

The singer-turned-politician was among 10 opposition candidates and came second with 34.8% of the vote.

He, however, declared himself “president” an acronym he has carried on till date in total disbelief that he lost the contested election.

In 2026, the fate of the NRM Party will rest in the hands of an 81-year-old incumbent president whom a majority of the country’s youths disapprove of and even many of them think should step aside rather than run for re-election.

In the past, the conventional wisdom would be that President Museveni faces an uphill battle to win an election term. But in today’s volatile, polarised political environment — in which Mr Museveni and potential general election opponent, Bobi Wine, became the first “president” to be criminally indicted opens his re-election campaign in a stronger position than many would expect.

He can make a compelling case for his sixth-term accomplishments, his steady leadership and a vision of the country fundamentally different from what is on offer from the NUP apologists — of freedom of opportunity and opportunity of freedom for all Ugandans.

A number of factors have worked in his favour. Because of his age, Mr. Museveni has been dogged by speculation about his re-election plans.

Many postulating that his only “begotten” son Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba would succeed his father hence a less peaceful transition of power since Uganda’s independence.

But no major candidate has stepped up to challenge him in the NRM primary since inception, which will allow him and his campaign team to focus their time, efforts and resources on the general election.

The timing of his signature on the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023, the UPDF Establishment, 2021 is right, because these programs are starting to have a big impact on the voting choice of many Ugandans especially the war veterans and the elderly, a constituency where Mr Museveni has seemed for ages undefeated.

Mr Museveni has even made gains in mitigating voters’ concerns about his age. First, he has enjoyed his physical State of the Nation addresses unlike his African contemporaries who often fall off the stage.

But Mr Museven’s biggest advantage might not come from anything he has done. Instead, it might come from the chaos among the opposition. This is welcome news for the president, who is fond of telling voters, “I will crush the entire opposition.”

A key part of Mr Museveni’s appeal for Ugandans is that he doesn’t provoke the sort of divisiveness that NUP does. Despite Mr Museveni’s sagging approval ratings, in the 2016 midterms, we saw that voting against the president was not a big motivator for many Ugandans (compared with 2011, when casting a vote against Mr. Museveni was a substantial motivator).

President Museveni and his team still have work to do to firm up his support before the election. First up is navigating a divisive nation characterized by individualistic rather nationalistic interests, big national debt, succession vaccum, missing persons, utter abuse of human rights and unstable commodity price fluctuations.

The NRM will also need to increase its messaging to voters about what he has been able to achieve in his six terms and what’s at stake over the next five years.

That effort will largely focus on swing-state voters in Busoga, Buganda, Bugisu and will highlight progress in critical areas like infrastructure, manufacturing and job creation.

This will ultimatel make Mr Museveni emerge victorious in 2026, it will be because voters preferred him to the alternative — not to the Almighty.

 

Tonny Tumukunde is a founding partner at M/s Tumukunde & Co. Advocates and a business man.

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