For the fifth time in a space of eight days, members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) second topmost organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC) met again but adjourned without reaching an agreement on how to proceed with the virtual vote hunting ahead of the 2021 general elections.
The meeting at State House, Entebbe, on Saturday, was called to build consensus on the party’s electoral roadmap in the wake of the Electoral Commission (EC’s) revised program for next year’s general elections.
The bone of contention is on how the party will conduct its internal elections without abusing the restrictions imposed by President Yoweri Museveni to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
For nearly four months now, Museveni has maintained a ban on gatherings on any form which formed the basis for the EC’s ban on campaign rallies.
The EC chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama announced on June 16 that contenders in next year’s general elections will hold virtual campaigns – marketing their candidatures through the convention and social media.
Behind closed doors at Entebbe; the NRM chiefs discussed how they were to conduct party primaries without conflicting with the Covid-19 restrictions that their chairman, Yoweri Museveni, imposed.
The challenge, however, is in the amendments to the NRM Constitution that the party’s delegates’ conference adopted in January.
Key among the amendments was the scrapping of the secret mode of election in preference of lining-up behind candidates.
Because this will require party supporters to gather at one go, at a polling station, some CEC members suggested that instead of falling into the temptation of breaching the Covid-19 restrictions, the party should return to the old system of holding elections by a secret ballot.
Since the proposal touches the provisions of the NRM constitution, the proponents of the suggestion were told, it would require the convening of another delegates’ conference which is also impossible, given the standing Covid-19 restrictions.
The issue of the NRM presidential flag bearer also came up again but still, the CEC members found themselves trapped in the same confusion.
In February 2019, CEC met at Chobe Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park and declared Museveni the NRM sole candidate for 2021. Two months later, the parliamentary caucus endorsed the resolution during a retreat at the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi which however seems to have been a waste of time.
“The parliamentary caucus is not an organ of the party and therefore, its decisions are not binding on the party,” a source said.
Instead of taking the resolution to the NRM MPs, the resolution was meant to be sold to members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), and later, the delegates’ conference but it never came up when the two organs met in January this year.
“As it stands, we don’t have a presidential flag bearer because the sole candidature resolution has to be endorsed by the delegates’ conference. But how are going to convene the delegates’ conference without contradicting the Covid-19 regulations? It is tricky,” a source said.
Amid this confusion, a proposal to call parish conferences to endorse Museveni’s sole candidacy was fronted but it was defeated when questions came up regarding the possibility of having a big gathering of people, and how the Secretary-General would extract a citation of the delegates conference to introduce Museveni to the EC as the NRM presidential flag bearer.
Rogers Mulindwa, the Communications and Public Affairs manager at the NRM secretariat declined to be interviewed but said in a statement that, “CEC convened [on] Saturday under the Chairmanship of President Museveni. Discussion of the party roadmap was key on the agenda, and given the importance of this item, more consultations and discussions will continue.”
Before heading out for the meeting, Museveni is understood to first have had a meeting with the party’s legal team led by Oscar Kihika at State House, Nakasero.