Mockery. The fact that the serving FDC party president can be outvoted in the race for the general election flag bearer has several implications. First, it makes a bit of a mockery of the two-term limit of party presidency.
Last week, Patrick Oboi Amuriat was elected as FDC president. Most observers feel Amuriat was really a front for Dr Kizza Besigye and the race was a proxy one between Gen Mugisha Muntu and Besigye.
It has deepened the tensions within the party, and for good reason.
In FDC’s constitution is a provision for anyone to vie for the party presidency. Anybody, during any election cycle, can present themselves for the party presidency and other senior positions.
On the face of it, this looks like democracy and in reality, it is democracy. But as it is with much in the real world, what is good on paper can be complicated in practice.
The FDC was founded in October 2005 at a time of much political uncertainty. Uganda seemed ripe for change after 19 years of the NRM’s rule.
Col Kizza Besigye resigned from the army in late 1999 and announced his presidential bid in 2001.
His 2001 candidacy was the most serious and most credible challenge to President Museveni since 1986.
He fled into exile in South Africa in August 2001 and while there, gained a near-cult status in Ugandan Opposition ranks.
When Besigye returned from exile in October 2005 and announced he would challenge for the presidency, the 2006 general election got underway. A record number of Ugandans queued to register as voters on account alone of Besigye’s return from exile.
That same month two political groups, Reform Agenda and the Parliamentary Action Forum (Pafo) merged to form a new political party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
The FDC just a few months later in the February 2006 election came in second to the NRM and Besigye runner-up to Museveni in the presidential race.
The FDC henceforth became synonymous with the personality of Besigye. Because of this dominant role and status by Besigye in the FDC, the internal politics of the party are always going to be complicated.
Besigye served as FDC president and stepped down in 2010 months before the end of his second term.
Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, the former army commander, succeeded Besigye. But Besigye continued to overshadow the party. When it came to the selection of a presidential candidate for the 2016 general election, the party chose Besigye over Muntu. It was a democratic choice, but what is democratic can sometimes bring with it unforeseen complications.
What it means for the FDC is that although it has a two-term limit for the party president, a former party president can return in a new role, that of the party flag bearer.
The ultimate goal of a political party is to win enough votes to gain state power and the ultimate dream of a party president is to run as the party’s presidential candidate and, eventually, become national head of state.
In that sense, the flag bearer is a more important role than being the party president.
The fact that the serving party president can be outvoted in the race for the general election flag bearer has several implications.
First, it makes a bit of a mockery of the two-term limit of party presidency. Gen Muntu the loser in the 2017 party presidential race has no incentive to whole-heartedly throw his support behind his successor Amuriat.
Because Muntu still has a chance to return in 2020 to contest for party flag bearer for the 2021 general election. Muntu can now mobilise his personal supporters and structures he created during his term as president and spend the next three years preparing for the 2020 party flag bearer race.
The FDC ends up being like NRM: A party with no real grassroots structures and systems but always dependent on powerful personalities.
It becomes like Russia where Vladimir Putin ends his term as president, becomes prime minister under Dmitry Medvedev, then when Medvedev’s term ends, the real power in the country Putin returns as president and Medvedev resumes his role as prime minister.
Besigye is to the FDC what Putin is to Russia.
This is similar to the 1979-1980 UNLF period when after the fall of Idi Amin, Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Binaisa were named president but the general view was that they were simply in an interim position before the former president Milton Obote eventually returned to power.
That is the awkward situation in which the FDC finds itself.