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NRM softens on ‘independents’

Analysis

NRM softens on ‘independents’

Lands state minister Aidah Nantaba threatened to risk her ministerial job but contest as an independent for the Woman MP seat for Kayunga district

Lands state minister Aidah Nantaba threatened to risk her ministerial job but contest as an independent for the Woman MP seat for Kayunga district

Museveni fears to ‘donate’ disgruntled members to Mbabazi’s camp

The National Resistance Movement Secretary General Kasule Lumumba recently called a press conference in which she announced what she called the official party stance on disaffected party members who claim to have lost unfairly in the primary elections and therefore threatening to stand as independents.

“Whoever is planning to go into elections as an independent will cease to be a member of NRM, ” she added.

However, the task to push this position has increasingly become a tricky one following recent assertions by both the NRM party’s chairman Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanya about the quality of the party’s primary elections.

While addressing journalists at State House on Wednesday last week President Museveni revealed that much as he has a problem with independents, he is at the same time cautious on tightening the noose around them until a thorough investigation has been done to ascertain whether the elections were free and fair.

Museveni said thus: “I wanted to be very harsh on the independents until I realized that one must be very sure that the primaries were clean. We therefore still have some issues to sort out the matter of independents.”

In fact since the end of the primaries, dozens of election results have been canceled on grounds that they were marred by irregularities.

The NRM flag bearer echoed Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya who had earlier muted that it is incumbent upon anybody threatening to close out independents to deliver a free and fair electoral process, a tacit indictment to the quality of NRM polls.

The dilemma heightened at Parliament last week in a press conference held by a group of disgruntled NRM candidates who lost in the primaries including incumbent MPs  demanding the party to either recount the votes or hold fresh elections or else they will run as independents in the coming general elections.

Kabula County MP James Kakooza is one of those who put Kasule Lumumba to task to make amends to the NRM primaries or leave alone those intending to try their luck as independents.

Agreeing with Oulanya, Kakooza told The Sunrise in a telephone interview that it is neither practical nor fair for the NRM party to discipline members harboring intentions to stand as independents.

Kakooza argues: “I won the election but the electoral commission changed the results and instead announced another person.”

In fact President Museveni has expressed caution on pushing defeated or disaffected NRM cadres too hard against the wall saying he does not want to donate supporters to Mbabazi.

As one of the strategies to calm down the angry aspirants, Museveni has instituted an independent tribunal to investigate malpractices in the concluded NRM primaries. He has also ordered the Electoral Commission chairman Tanga Odoi to organize fresh elections in places like Kyankwanzi where the worst malpractices were recorded.

Consequently, Tanga Odoi has this week organized fresh elections and embarked on discharging 70 petitions which have been gathering since the conclusion of the polls two weeks ago.

However, the validity of Tanga’s ruling will depend on the findings of the Constitutional court following a petition by West Budama Member of Parliament Fox Odoi this week challenging the credibility of NRM’s EC handling and determining party primary complaints.

Having come out of a highly divisive primaries round, NRM strategists know that it is in their interest to soften the party’s stance on independents as pursuing hardline positions will only aggravate divisions in the party with the risk of losing elections.

According to renowned human right lawyer Laudislaus Rwakafuzi, President Museveni’s apparent dissatisfaction with the quality of primaries has rendered Lumumba’s warning to expel independents hollow.

“Lumumba’s position is at variance with the de-facto party position being reflected by the NRM party chairman and therefore looking less likely to be pushed and implemented,” Rwakafuzi observes.

Besides, Rwakafuzi explains, the recent amendment of article 83 of the constitution allowing Members of Parliament to change political allegiances in the fourth year of their term of office, grants them freedom to stand independently in an election, leaning towards a party of their choice.

Rwakafuzi argues thus: “The biggest worry for NRM now is to have its members cross to Mbabazi’s camp. But reading from the message of the NRM party chairman they, would rather have their members run as NRM leaning independents in the coming general elections than lose them to Mbabazi.”

“President Museveni also knows very well that there are even people who lost genuinely in the NRM primary polls but are using these on going agitations to run as independents. But again With Mbabazi camp opening broader and wider in the face of disgruntled members, expelling independents will play into Mbabazi hands. I don’t see them doing that,” argues Rwakafuzi.

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