Uganda: NRM Split Over Mode of Voting in Primaries

The National Resistance Movement (NRM) is struggling to come up with a common mode of voting in their party primaries to identify their candidates for different elective positions in the 2021 General Election.

The ruling party leaders are particularly split on whether to line up behind candidates as provide for in the NRM constitution or adopt the secret ballot model.

The NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) met on Saturday under the chairmanship of President Museveni but no agreement was reached.

"The meeting failed to agree on whether we should line up behind candidates or going for a secret ballot," a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Daily Monitor yesterday.

Sources said the meeting had been convened purposely to launch and discuss the party's roadmap and the way forward but the voting system being central to the agenda, no further discussions could proceed after the stalemate between those insisting on lining up and those in support of secret ballot.

Following the stalemate, the launch of the party's roadmap was postponed pending further consultations and another CEC meeting will be held this week to attempt to resolve the impasse.

The party's senior manager for communication and public relations, Mr Rogers Mulindwa, confirmed the roadmap was central to the agenda and had been postponed but did not give details on the reasons.

"Discussion of the party roadmap was key on the agenda and given the importance of this item, more consultations and discussions will continue. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday next week," Mr Mulindwa said in a statement.

Sources at the meeting said many members called for a secret ballot but after a split debate, Mr Museveni insisted that the voting should be by lining up behind candidates.

Some party members are seeking change of the voting mode to revert to voting by secret ballot system, which was dumped during the party constitution amendments in January.

Those in support of the proposal think it will be the safest way to reduce the risks of Covid-19.

In March following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, which has also disrupted the Electoral Commission national roadmap, political parties had to suspend preparations for their internal elections.

About two weeks ago, the EC released a revised roadmap for 2021 which political parties have protested, saying the time frame between identifying candidates, nominations, campaigns and voting is too inadequate.

The EC has put out tight deadlines for political parties. They all must identify candidates by the end of July to allow the party flag bearers to send their academic papers for verification ahead of nominations.

Another issue that has been contested by political parties including the NRM is the scientific mode of campaigns in which the EC banned mass public rallies. The canvassing of votes by presidential, parliamentary and local government candidates will be electronic to avoid person to person contact as a way to avoid risks of the spread of Covid-19.

The NRM has been electing its flag bearers through universal adult suffrage, but may be forced to adopt the piloted "scientific" campaigns. Opposition parties on the other hand do things differently by identifying candidates through electoral colleges.


On January 25, the NRM delegates conference approved the proposal to amend the party constitution to provide for voting by lining up behind candidates.

The proposal was mooted and supported by CEC and the National Executive Committee. The reason fronted by Mr Museveni who chaired the NEC meeting was that lining up behind candidates would be cost effective and also reduce election irregularities that have always led to the emergency of independent candidates.

At the January meeting, only James Waluswaka (Bunyole West MP) and Ms Jackline Amongin (Ngora District Woman MP), opposed the lining up system.

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