It is understood that different presidential contenders have laid strategies that will see them tap into those new voters who are most likely to be young people who are not ideologically inclined. The battle for first-time voters took shape when Presid...
museveni, tumukunde, mao, kyagunlayi
It is understood that different presidential contenders have laid strategies that will see them tap into those new voters who are most likely to be young people who are not ideologically inclined. The battle for first-time voters took shape when President Museveni’s former spy chief Lieutenant General Henry Tumukunde, who is now eyeing his job, drew first blood by launching what he termed as “virgin voters” at his headquarters in Kololo.
When he was unveiling the group of “virgin voters” , Tumukunde portrayed this group of people as those who had decided to support him out of their own will. “I want the world to know that you made the decision to join me on your own, no one coerced you. It is people like you that will cause that change that Uganda deserves,” Gen Tumukunde said.
Beatrice Kiraso, who is the chief of staff of Tumukunde’s campaign, said in a phone interview that the “virgin voters” group was a voluntary act by young voters.
“This was a group of young voters who came and said they wanted to be part of our campaign, ‘Ms. Kiraso, the former East African Community Deputy Secretary-General, said.
According to sources within Gen Tumukunde’s movement dubbed” Renewed Uganda” , the platform the former security minister, who recently threatened to quit the presidential race if the security forces continue harassing the political opposition intends to make “virgin voters” part of his election machinery.
“They will be going in different parts of the country canvassing votes for the General,” a source familiar with Gen Tumukunde’s arrangements said on condition of anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“Our virgin voters will be out looking for other virgin voters.” Ms Kiraso seemed to confirm that arrangement of making the voters a wing of Tumukunde’s movement.
“When you are going to look for votes, you can have a women’s league which targets women, you can have a youth league which looks votes among the youth,” Ms Kiraso, also former Kabarole District woman Member of Parliament (MP), said,” Now this group of virgin voters will be looking for voters among new voters throughout the country.”
If figures from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), are to go by, nearly 65 per cent of Uganda’s 39 million people is between 15 and 30 years. That translates to over 70 per cent of eligible voters in 2021, making the young voters a target for any politician. Though for these presidential elections, Gen Tumukunde was the first to launch an initiative aimed at swaying first-time voters, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine, the Kyadondo East MP who is now challenging for the presidency has been courting first-time voters ever since he came into the political scene in 2017.
Apparently, having studied Uganda’s demographics, Mr Kyagulanyi started advising young people who had not voted in 2016 because they were not of age to get National Identity cards which at the time he thought would be the tools used during elections but such plans were upset when the EC changed the rules saying that National Identity cards won’t be needed for 2021 elections.
But the greatest weapon Bobi Wine has used to get traction with potentially new voters or people who have never voted is Social Media where he has a cult following and it seems he will use that tool to greater effect during the campaigns in which any efforts to hold mass gatherings will be crushed by security forces.
“We are going to increase our presence online and our target will be first-time voters,” Mr Jeremiah Keeya Mwanje, who is part of Mr Kyagulanyi’s national taskforce, explained in a phone interview.
President Museveni has embraced the technological trends and music to appeal to young voters.
“Very soon we shall be launching a website for our campaign and it will be manned by young people who are either are still at the university or they have just graduated. It will have various products such as the situation room, war room, opinion polls, where we will be informing the public what is going in the campaign. So new voters are part of our plans.”
For the ruling NRM, for two years now, following the rise of Mr Kyagulanyi, President Museveni has augmented his presence on social media where is now on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where he creates time to interact directly with his followers who are mainly youths.
In August, for instance, Museveni used his Social Media platforms to declare two things: How he adopted Bosco, the name given to him by opposition supporters, and his readiness for Kyagulanyi, come next year.
“Whether Ugandans want Bobi Wine or Bosco (I am made to understand that means Museveni), that is a matter that will be settled early next year,’ Museveni wrote. “However, recently we had semi-finals in the form of elections of the disabled, the elderly, and the youth,” “Who won the matches in the 3 matches?” he asked. “Bosco won without too much preparation, and I am looking forward to the finals. Greetings to your foreign backers who fear a strong Uganda. Too bad for them.”
Mr Museveni’s efforts online are going to increase during the coming elections according to sources with State House where the online staff has been boosted in the effort to counter Kyagulanyi’s online dominance.
“He will keep on directly talking to young voters telling them what his government has done and responding to their questions and giving clarifications,” a source within State House said,” The President has been talking to young people because he understands they are ever online.
Don Wanyama, Mr Museveni’s senior Press Secretary, sources say, has been charged with Museveni’s online campaigns and he was the brainchild behind the President’s campaign slogan “Sevolution which is assumed will attract young voters. “I don’t know what you are talking about but I can’t comment about the President’s campaigns since I am partly a civil servant but also the President’s spokesperson,” Mr Wanyama said while avoiding the question.
It would not be the first time Museveni has tried to attract young voters. For the purposes of 2011 elections, Museveni rapped a song called “Mp’enkoni” which jammed airwaves and it is assumed by Mr Museveni’s team that it went a long way in attracting young people who might be detached from the President who has aged.
DP President Norbert Mao has been actively engaging young voters on social media channels Facebook and Twitter.
“The president doesn’t take anything for guaranteed. So he will always have an eye for young people and this campaign he will be interested in young people than ever before,” a source within State House said.
Beyond social media, Museveni and his campaign team, who are well aware of unemployment crisis among the youth, intend to use the Shs260b Presidential Initiate on wealth and job creation (Emyooga) to attract new voters.
“You can’t just tell young people to just shout on social media,” a person close to State House’s social media strategy said. “You have to give them solutions to their problems. That’s why we have Emyooga. And it’s the most important thing because we want to keep young people occupied rather than shouting on social media.”
For the Forum for Democratic (FDC), the largest opposition party in the country, they have adopted a radically different approach of trying to get new voters.
The FDC, in its plan hasn’t adopted a clear Social Media strategy which many think attracts the youth. Rather, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, the party’s presidential candidate has decided to embrace his name “the villager” which was disparaging given to him during the bitter 2017 FDC Presidential campaigns between him and Major General Mugisha Muntu.
In the run up to Mr Amuriat’s nomination as a Presidential candidate, all FDC material, on Social Media, announcing the occasion, had the word “villager” inscribed on them.
Instead of trying to do rallies, Mr. Amuriat, who is now a villager, according to FDC strategists, is going to spend time interacting with communities during day and night without sleeping in hotels. “He has embraced the villager name as part of his identity,’ an FDC strategist familiar with Amuriat’s campaign.
“We have divided Uganda into various partitions and you will see our candidate staying in villages which will include staying around the fire area at night. The villager has to stay with villagers.”
Mr Kyagulanyi’s appealing message to the youth has seen him gain prominence on the political scene.
It’s said rather compete for urban votes, FDC intends to attack NRM in its rural strongholds and that’s why Mr Amuriat has adopted the name “villager”. “It will be very easy for villagers to identify with him,” a source within FDC said. “The villager will be accepted by the villagers who have suffered for so long.”