If the outcome of the February 18 General Election were to be determined by how best presidential candidates have articulated national issues in the campaign, then President Yoweri Museveni and his arch-rival Dr Kizza Besigye are in a dead heat, concludes the most recent opinion poll by research firm Ipsos.
The Ipsos opinion poll gives President Museveni 39 per cent, against Dr Besigye’s 38 per cent, on articulation of issues.
But, the fifth General Election since Mr Museveni came to power three decades ago — like all others before it — is unlikely to be decided purely on which political camp has the most realistic manifesto or the best team leader to execute it, as multiple analysts have noted.
As such, Museveni — relying on the advantages of incumbency, a still strong brand, the peace dividend the country enjoys, and other support he derives from controlling the state – may still carry the day. If he wins, he will stretch his rule to 35 years, which will move him up in rank among the exclusive club of Africa’s longest ruling leaders.
Or, Dr Besigye — relying on sheer personal resilience, a widely observed resonance of public fatigue over Museveni’s longevity in power, and a much better executed campaign than the previous ones he has mounted — may eventually clinch the presidency he has unsuccessfully competed for three times now.
The Ipsos poll shows that 53 per cent of the 2,144 people who were interviewed face to face would vote for Museveni if the elections were held between February 1 and February 8 when the poll was conducted across all the regions in the country.
Museveni’s score is respectively 25 and 51.1 per cent more than those who said they would vote for Besigye (28 per cent) and Amama Mbabazi (1.9 per cent), his former prime minister and long-time right hand man whose candidature was touted as a game changer.