The NRM is fielding 145 candidates out of 146 seats for the district woman MP seats
Opposition political parties have no candidates in at least 79 parliamentary seats in the 2021 general election, according to the official nomination list released by the Electoral Commission (EC).
Of the 499 parliamentary seats in the forthcoming elections, Opposition parties will not compete in 47 directly-elected constituencies and in 32 out of the 146 seats for women.
In the 46 constituencies without opposition candidates, nine National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidates are already waiting for the swearing-in ceremony as they are unopposed.
These include gender minister Frank Tumwebaze (Kibale East), finance minister Matia Kasaija (Buyanja), deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi (Kyaka South) and the MPs for Ik and Bugahya counties Hillary Lokwang and Pius Wakabi, respectively.
Others are Emely Kugonza (Buyanja East), Gyaviira Ssemwanga (Buyamba), Enock Nyongore (Nakaseke North), and Cuthbert Abigaba in Kibale.
However, unlike their colleagues, this was a record second time Lokwang and Wakabi are sailing through unopposed.
NRM contestants for women seats who were also declared unopposed include Anita Among (Bukedea) and Lillian Paparu in Arua.
In the rest of constituencies without opposition candidates, NRM candidates are tussling it out with independent candidates, many of them NRM party members who lost in the primary elections.
These include Dodoth West in the new district of Karenga, where NRM candidate Ben Koryan and independents Fr Simon Lokodo, the ethics state minister, and Daniel Lokong, are set for another showdown.
In Moroto Municipality, NRM’s Francis Lorika is again squaring off with the incumbent, Fred Angella.
Karenga and Moroto are located in Karamoja region, one of the NRM strongholds where candidates who win NRM party primaries most times triumph in the general elections. The opposition has traditionally performed poorly in Karamoja.
No party candidates
In two constituencies, there are no political party candidates. These are Samia Bugwe County in Busia and Lutseshe County in Bududa district.
Seven independents are racing for Samia Bugwe.
In Lutseshe County, three independents are fighting for the seat.
NRM’s 14% head start
Since in 77 constituencies there are only NRM and NRM-leaning independent candidates, it means NRM has at least a 14% head start in the 2021 parliamentary race.
“For us, our role is to retain our big majority in Parliament and add on more so that we get over 75% win,” senior presidential adviser on political affairs Moses Byaruhanga said.
Byaruhanga is part the 18-member 2021-2026 NRM manifesto team.
According to the EC report, the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has the highest number of nominated parliamentary candidates among the opposition parties.
It has fielded candidates in 213 (60%) constituencies out of the 353 seats for directly elected MPs. The race for the women MPs saw FDC fielding 68 (46%) candidates out of the 146 available slots.
National Unity Platform (NUP), under the Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine leadership, follows closely with 242 candidates, of which 182 (51%) are competing for directly elected MP seats and 60 (41%) for district Woman MP seats.
Out of 2,028 nominated candidates for directly elected MP seats, 1,036 are independents and 351 belong to NRM.
The NRM is fielding 145 candidates out of 146 seats for the district woman MP seats.
“It is only NRM, which has fielded candidates in 98% of the constituencies that has the capacity to amend the Constitution because it will win about 75% of the constituencies,” Byaruhanga argued.
“The other thing, which we also need to ask the Opposition is that if you can’t win a majority in Parliament, how can you be President of the country? How will Parliament pass your major policies? Parliament can even bring down a government if you don’t have a majority there,” Byaruhanga said.
What FDC, NUP say FDC secretary general Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, who is seeking re-election as Budadiri West MP, told New Vision there are areas where they are thin on the ground and so “we couldn’t really bother to put up candidates there.”
“But in other areas, such as Kapchorwa, our secretaries were not available to stamp nomination forms and, as a result, people went as independents,” Mafabi said.
NUP spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi, who is also contesting for the newly created Nakawa West constituency, said it was due to “numerous challenges” that they were not able to field candidates everywhere.
Asked whether the failure to field candidates in over 70 constituencies would not affect his presidential candidate, Kyagulanyi’s chances of winning the race, Ssenyonyi cited the results of the three previous general elections where FDC presidential candidate Col. (rtd) Kizza Besigye emerged victorious in certain constituencies despite his party’s parliamentary candidates losing to their NRM rivals.
Analyst weighs in
Dr Frederick Golooba Mutebi, a political scientist, said political parties in Uganda, except the NRM, are struggling in terms of raising money, which explains why they are unable to field candidates everywhere.
He also said NRM has access to state resources and also has ways of raising money that other parties do not have.
“So, one reason must be the lack of resources to sponsor candidates and it is also possible that not enough people came up to contest under the opposition parties,” Golooba added.
Parties are allowed to raise money for their activities through collecting membership subscription fees and purchase of their paraphernalia.
They can also collect unlimited donations from individuals and private legal entities. However, foreign donations to political parties are limited by legislation. The total amount of donations to a political party from abroad cannot exceed sh400m in a period not exceeding 12 months.