Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party on Friday got its third president when Patrick Amuriat Oboi beat Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu at Namboole stadium.
Before that, no political party in Uganda’s history had ever seen an incumbent leader defeated in an internal process.
The other parties that have had changes of leadership, like the Democratic Party and Jeema, have done so by the incumbent leaders retiring and enabling others to take over, but not by the seating leader being defeated by an opponent.
On the other hand, the ruling NRM party has never had competition for party chairman since multiparty politics was reintroduced in 2005. Different individuals who have tried to compete against President Museveni for the leadership of the party have had their attempts scuttled over the years, with the latest being former prime minister Amama Mbabazi in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
Political parties are public organisations and their proper functioning is important for the general functioning of the country’s politics. If political parties are not run well and have a democracy deficit, that deficit will be replicated on the national stage.
Through internal processes in political parties, players learn the underlying principles of democracy, like fair competition, adjusting to election loss, tolerance and respecting individuals with opposing viewpoints. The idea is that these principles will then be exported on to the national stage when the political party in question takes power.
These principles, however, have been in very short supply even in the few parties that periodically hold internal elections. Accusations of rigging, for example, by way of getting non-delegates to vote for the incumbent, are common. Violence is common among internal party processes. For the 12 years FDC has been on the stage, however, it has endeavoured to minimise such vices.
This is, however, not to say that there are no contradictions within FDC. As the recently concluded election made clear, the rift between the camps allied to Gen Muntu and former party leader Kizza Besigye is alive and might just have got bigger.
The party also had problems in 2012 after Gen Muntu defeated current secretary general Nandala Mafabi for the presidency.
Gen Muntu used a lot of time fighting to shake off the claim that he is a mole within the party, an accusation against him that he attributes to those allied with Dr Besigye.
But even with these contradictions within the party, the election went with minimum hitches that were resolved on the spot and a verdict that no one may justifiably challenge was returned.
On the basis of this, we commend FDC for continuing to set the pace for party democracy in Uganda and urge them to amicably resolve their misunderstandings.