2021 GENERAL ELECTIONS THE DISTRICTS THAT MATTER

Rarely do I offer unsolicited advice. But here is some (and feel free to take it or leave it). If you intend to be a national political contender in the coming election, and you are looking to really make a difference, then you have to talk to communities that will numerically influence the vote.

Only 16 of the 135 districts have an immense power in their numbers to determine the political trajectory of Uganda at the 2021 polls (all factors remaining constant). Electoral statistics show that 16 districts hold 35 per cent of the country’s entire voting population. They could swing the national election in whichever direction they choose to (if they voted homogeneously).
Kampala and Wakiso are the most significant decision-makers. Kampala with about 1,281,308 voters is followed by Wakiso District with a voting population of 1,160,551.

Both districts are in the central region (Buganda) and account for the biggest voting bloc countrywide. Of course, never mind that voters in these area may not be homogeneous. Statistically speaking (and putting in mind other influencing factors), a presidential candidate would need to successfully convince the electorate in the central region if they are to count their chances at the presidency.

Other districts with high voting populations include are Kasese (372,102 voters), Mukono (354,047 voters), Arua (328,415 voters), Jinja (274,772 voters), Tororo (264,222 voters), Ntungamo (261,953), Mbale (257,276 voters), Luweero (256,454 voters), Buikwe (234,218 voters), Kamuli (233,930 voters), Mayuge (229,252 voters), Isingiro (221,811 voters), Lira (213,222 voters), and Kyenjojo (207,370 voters). A quick look at these figures easily paints a picture of how numbers will apply in the coming general election.
Any serious political contenders should now be adding, subtracting and balancing the numbers so that they can benefit from them in the 2021 political matrix. But that is not to say politicians should only concentrate on wheedling numbers over influencing quality political participation.

The chronicle of the voter numbers is only half the story though. Areas rich in voter figures have also become playgrounds for all manner of electoral manipulation. Every politician wants to partake of these fertile hunting grounds. Past experience shows that violence during elections freeloads on areas with significant voting populations. The central region, for instance, was the theatre of the 2001 and 2006 scenes of electoral violence. The post-2011 elections ‘Walk-to-Work’ protests happened mainly in Buganda region. Following the last general elections, there has been a pattern of election-related violence that trails densely populated areas.

For instance, Kasese experienced violence in the immediate post-2016 General Election. Arua District in West Nile was another hotbed of violent scenes during the 2018 parliamentary by-election. Tension laced with barbs of volatility characterised the 2018 Ruhama parliamentary by-election in Ntungamo District. On the other hand, electoral exercises in districts such as Moroto (which have small voter populations) have been relatively peaceful.

How the 2021 election plays out will largely depend on the way the 16 voter-rich districts engage with the election. In fact, it is these areas that could easily blaze a trail in manipulative practices such as voter bribery, tension, violence, vote rigging, unwarranted security interference in elections or even voter suppression. It is these same areas that could set the tempo for better electoral practices (if they collectively decided to). It is these districts that should (ideally) determine who is elected president of Uganda come 2021. Without a doubt, these are the areas to keep on your watch-list!

Mr Kaheru is election analyst.
ckaheru@gmail.com

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