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‘Weakened’ Museveni is trying to scrap presidential elections, says Nambooze

PARLIAMENT | The government is trying to scrap off the concept of adult suffrage in presidential election so that a political party that wins the most seats in Parliament gets to pick the head of state, Mukono North MP Betty Nambooze has said.

Nambooze, who is also the shadow minister for information and communication, said the new move is a ploy by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) who “feel that President Museveni is now politically too weak to win a presidential election.”

“We have learnt of a ploy by NRM that members are being whipped to go to Kyankwanzi in the first week of February to consider a constitutional amendment to have the president elected by the electoral college that the party with majority MPs will automatically assume the presidency,” Nambooze, who was addressing journalists on the electoral reforms proposed by the Opposition, said.

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The corridors of Parliament has been awash with rumours that the ruling NRM Central Executive Committee will sit on February 12 and will, among others, consider several constitutional proposals that the caucus can harmonise and table before Parliament.

“This is being done because President Museveni is now considered weak and unable to go around the country and it is also a ploy to eliminate independent presidential candidates. As Opposition, we are alerting the country that we are likely to have ‘togikwatako’ part two as we fight this pro-museveni constitutional amendment,” said Nambooze.

President Museveni has won election five times since the first democratic polls under his government in 1996. While he easily beat Democratic Party’s Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere and Mohammad Kibirige Mayanja with 74% of the votes in 1996, he started facing strong challenge in 2001.

Museveni’s former personal doctor in the bush, Kizza Besigye, has dissented within the military and preempted a move to court martial him by retiring from the army and offering himself for the presidency. But he lost the election.

However, when Museveni moved to change the Constitution to run for a third term in office by scrapping the three-term presidential limit, he faced a battle for survival and eventually emerged the winner of the disputed poll by 59%.

Besigye petitioned and judges agreed there was malpractice and rigging in favour of the incumbent but that these were not significant enough to alter the outcome of the final results.

Five years later, Museveni was declared the winner again, only for civil disobedience to paralyse the couuntry, an indictment on the legitimacy of his re-election.

In 2016, the state had to disenfranchise millions of voters in urban centres by making them wait for hours before polling centres opened. Results in many urban centres, considered Opposition strongholds, were later not considered in the tallying as the Electoral Commission declared Museveni the winner while his nearest challenger Besigye was under house arrest.

The ruling party is no doubt aware of these trends and conscious of the fact that, while Museveni is increasingly growing unpopular, the easier fix is that the ruling party continues to win more seats in Parliament than the Opposition combined.

This, some leaders in NRM feel, should be the chalice to use to continue NRM rule over the country. However, the caucus might find the suggestion a risky venture especially if the electorate realise that by voting out NRM legislators, they would be changing the president of the republic.

Nambooze said Ugandans are tired of a situation where the constitution is only amended whenever President Museveni feels he lacks something somewhere.

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