Comparing UK’s lukewarm and Uganda’s hyper election attitudes

As Britain goes to vote for a new prime minister on Thursday, OSKAR SEMWEYA-MUSOKE analyses the election through his Ugandan lenses.

Who will be the next British prime minister come election day this week? Until last Thursday when the last television political debate was held, organised by the BBC, it seemed to me that many UK citizens had no care about who would win the elections.

I had the good fortune of spending a week in London last week. Unfortunately, my visit to the UK was abruptly cut short following the passing away of my old man, our family patriarch. At 72 years old, he died young, seeing that his own father left this world at 75 many years ago well before today’s wonder drugs that keep cardiac issues at bay!

On arrival to the UK, I was surprised, and even disappointed, by the lack of interest in the forthcoming elections. Newspapers had been devoting a mere three to four pages on the election that was just a week away. Amongst friends plus teachers and support staffs at all the schools I have visited, there is no mention of politics.

In Uganda it seems that we are all geared up for 2016. On a daily basis the press informs us of who is intending to overwhelm an MP of a particular region. We are all speculating about what Amama Mbabazi will do next whilst NRM functionaries contend that he is finished. Has General Mugisha Muntu turned up or will Dr Kizza Besigye return to dominate FDC and the opposition parties?

Well, at last week’s debate, UK citizens found their voice. It was not really a debate in the traditional sense because political party leaders were each given 30 minutes individually. It was significant that only the traditional political parties’ leaders were invited. This included the Liberal Democrats who seem to have faded and [been] overtaken by the right wing United Kingdom Independence Party whose anti-immigration and anti-Europe preaching has gained them some votes.

It is interesting that the UK voter is very focused on particular issues. Prime Minister David Cameron was pinned on immigration – why numbers of immigrants are rising – and on how he will manage welfare, seeing that he needs to find an extra 10bn pounds in his budget. His government has been known for austerity that has led to a reduction in services.

Nick Clegg, of the Liberal Democrats, who is the deputy prime minister in the outgoing coalition government, was taken to task about his record. He had promised not to increase university tuition fees but he supported a coalition decision to do so. He will never be forgiven and an apology was not enough because he is also blamed for over-loving the European Union.

Labour leader Ed Milliband came off the worst from the debate. He seemed to be apologetic all the time, he did not attack the Tories enough and worst of all he tripped and, stumbled when leaving the stage. Very un-presidential!


It is thought that this last debate will not change voters’ minds. Apparently, 60 per cent know whom they will vote and less than one per cent may have been swayed by the debate.

However, even at MP level it is issues-based. Apart from a few who enjoy a massive majority in their constituencies, most candidates for the British parliament have to address a local problem; for example the influx of immigrants, assisting small businesses or improving availability of doctors at surgeries.

As for Ugandans living in the UK, there is a section of them that is hooked onto an Internet-based political radio talk-show called Munansi aired all the way from California. Apparently it is popular with Ugandans in the USA, Australia and UK. The topic discussed the most is how to remove President Museveni. Dr Aggrey Kiyingi features regularly, and it seems he is popular, and listeners believe he will win the next election.

Now, it is a tough job beating Museveni in an election on any day, Besigye and opposition politicians know this well. But to beat him from afar using Internet radio as the main campaign tool seems like wishful thinking.

The lesson to take from the UK elections is that it cannot be enough to vote for anyone simply because of the party to which they belong. What does your wannabe MP stand for? What does he or she intend to bring to the plate? What development do you want to see post-2016? This is what should influence the vote!

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