Is the Ugandan election a foregone conclusion at this point? Africa Confidential has said sort of yes and sort of no. It seems that there is something of a consensus that the multiplicity of opposition candidates means no one of them can really rival Museveni. On the other hand, does Museveni clearly have 50% support in his own right? And does that matter to the official outcome of the election?
The Daily Monitor has a fascinating story about the status of the polling and the media reporting on the polling that indicates a great deal about the actual situation in Uganda right now, and how little is actually known:
When an opinion poll by AfroBarometer/Wilsken was published last December, it was the first indicator of the possible public mood.
The poll inevitably caused celebration among the NRM camp and angry protests among the opposition and their supporters.
Amid all the heated reaction to this poll, what most for and against it forgot to note was that the final question of the poll asked the respondents who they thought had sent AfroBarometer to conduct the poll. Over 63 percent of respondents said they believed AfroBarometer had been sent by the government.
The fact that such a large number of respondents believed the poll had been commissioned by the NRM government (an interested party in the 2011 election) was the very point that nullifies the 66 percent lead that the poll showed NRM candidate Yoweri Museveni to be enjoying, since it proved that respondents were playing it safe and responding out of fear.
However, it was the first major poll of the 2010 campaign season and as such was at least a starting point. Had it stopped at that, many people might have reflected on it and it might have shaped perceptions of what February 2011 might bring.
Then two weeks later, the New Vision published results of what it called its own poll, which put Museveni at 65 percent. This too was met with protests and accusations that as a government-owned paper the New Vision obviously had an interest in portraying Museveni as enjoying an unassailable lead.
However, last week when the New Vision published a poll supposedly by the research firm Synovate (formerly Steadman & Associates), supposedly commissioned by the FDC/IPC, and supposedly showing Museveni with a lead of 67 percent, and when Synovate publicly disassociated itself from this New Vision story the following day, then opinion polls for the 2011 general election had reached the point of diminishing returns.
The New Vision had overreached itself. It was now viewed as having planted this story in its pages by fraud and so, of course, the so-called Synovate poll could now be discarded as null and void.
However, it raises a number of questions. For one, if the New Vision could publish a poll it fraudulently claimed had been commissioned by the IPC and was proved to be fraudulent, how could we now trust that the New Vision in its own internal poll that had been honest with that 65 percent result?
And now, come to think of it, how can we be sure of any poll that purports to reflect Ugandan public opinion in 2010 and 2011?
By publishing this fraudulent poll that Synovate publicly dismissed, the election is back into the territory of the unknown.
The mid 60s percentage points that had started taking shape in people’s minds as a figure to believe or dismiss or at least debate, are now irrelevant. . . .
On the always fascinating question of what Kenyan politicians are up to in Uganda:
“As Kenyan leaders troop to Uganda, Museveni makes political capital”, Charles Onyango-Obbo in The East African.