Elections in a Hybrid Regime: Revisiting the 2011 Ugandan Polls

elections-hybrid-regimeSandrine Perrot, Sabiti Makara, Jérôme Lafargue and Marie-Aude Fouéré (eds),  Elections in a Hybrid Regime: Revisiting the 2011 Ugandan Polls, Fountain Publishers, 2014, ISBN: 978-9970-25-341-8.

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How different were the 2011 elections? Did the political environment in the run-up to the elections restrict the capacity of political organisations to “organise and express themselves”? Could the relative restriction of civil and political freedoms affect the pattern of voting and electoral outcomes? Do the election outcomes represent the people’s view? To answer these questions, this book applies a multidisciplinary approach to conducting a multifaceted analysis of the 2011 elections in Uganda. Geographers, demographers, political scientists, and anthropologists contribute different in-depth political analyses, rather than partisan opinions or emotional reactions. It also assesses Uganda’s evolving electoral democracy and provides field-based insights into critical, often underappreciated, aspects of the electoral process. It is a must-read for contemporary researchers, students, opinion leaders, international organisations, donors and policy practitioners in the fields of democracy and governance; comparative politics; political institutional building and African politics. The general reader, too, will find it captivating.

Argument and content

How was political competition framed in the run-up to the 2011 elections? Did the use of instruments of control, the widespread monetization of the campaign and patronage practices limit the capacity of opposition to organize and express itself? Could the relative restriction of civil and political freedoms have affected the pattern of voting and electoral outcomes? In other words, did the results represent the people’s views?

These are some of the critical questions addressed in this edited volume published by Fountain Publishers. It owes its existence to a joint academic project between the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) and Makerere University, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, supported by the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF). It aims to encourage a better understanding of the 2011 elections in Uganda for the benefit of researchers and students, organizations, opinion leaders and general readers, both within and outside Uganda, and to serve as a reference point in the assessment of Uganda’s evolving electoral democracy. The book adopts a multidisciplinary approach and a multifaceted analysis of the 2011 elections: geographers, demographers, political scientists, and anthropologists took part in this collective project, which provides field-based insights into critical, often under-appreciated aspects of the electoral process.

A tremendous collection of data and a detailed mapping exercise opens the first part of this volume, which revisits the main transversal issues addressed during the 2011 elections: the management of national and local elections, the commercialization of politics and the role of media during the 2011 elections. The second part of this book gives detailed fieldwork feedback on three case studies: Buganda, northern Uganda and Teso. The last chapter is a perspective on post-electoral events and their impact on the way the 2011 elections are to be understood.”

Despite contrasting academic approaches, the texts compiled in this book converge on the following points: even if the incumbent President, Museveni, and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) won an indisputable victory at the national and local levels, the 2011 elections were not a homogeneous “big win”. The NRM exercised careful, multiform and sharp-eyed management and monitoring of the electoral process. Both underlying formal mechanisms as well as informal practices shaped voters’ behaviour: the clear continuities of the Movement hegemonic mode of governance; the internal and external weaknesses of the opposition and the transformation of the ruling party’s modes of repression and control.

In this collective book, we argue that even though there was no direct massive rigging or violence, these elections do not necessarily consolidate democracy nor the legitimacy of the regime. The 2011 elections results were misrepresented to suggest that Museveni’s and the NRM’s wide victory meant the strengthening of their political authority and legitimacy. Our main conclusion is that the elections highlight an electoral more than a political support for Museveni’s regime. In other words, a vote for Museveni does not necessarily imply an ideological adhesion to the NRM policies and mode of governance or recognition of the regime’s legitimacy. This does not mean that the election outcome does not reflect people’s views: people certainly “freely” voted for the NRM but for diverse reasons. First, the NRM succeeded in convincing people that the opposition was not a credible alternative while the opposition took it for granted that they had a significant and growing support, therefore failing to tackle its internal weaknesses, partly inherited from the “no-party” system and partly organisational. Most importantly, the NRM regime, through both the massive distribution of financial and material incentives and use of at least subtle political violence, convinced the electorate that in the short or medium term the incumbent regime will remain in power. Due to this belief, we argue that the electorate, especially in recently captured areas, chose to be on the winner’s side and not on the side of the opposition by fear of political or economic marginalisation – a position which raises essential questions about what it means to be in the opposition in contemporary Uganda. This electoral behaviour comes along with a now entrenched perception that the regime will not change through elections. Our argument is not that the elections cannot lead to an alternation of power but that the electorate internalized such an idea and voted accordingly. This is one of the characteristics of hybrid regimes and part of the regime strategy to defang competition.

This book aims to serve as a reference point in the assessment of Uganda’s often under-appreciated, aspects of the electoral process. It also reflects the fruitfulness of close cooperation between development agencies and researchers, as well as between researchers from the North and from the South.

Table of Content

1. Introduction: Looking Back at the 2011 Multiparty Elections in Uganda  – Sandrine Perrot, Jérôme Lafargue, Sabiti Makara)

2. Opinion Polls in the Spotlight:

2a. What Can we Learn from Opinion Polls?: A Weak Opposition – Nicolas de Torrenté

2b. Opinion Polls in the spotlight: Opinion Polls and the NRM’s Strengths : Grassroots Mobilisation, Patronage and Security – Nicolas de Torrenté

2c. Opinion Polls in the Spotlight: An Exercise in Deception? Opinion Polling in a Semi-Authoritarian African Polity – Julius Kiiza

3. Election Results and Public Contestation of the Vote: An Overview of the Uganda 2011 General Elections – Valérie Golaz and Claire Médard

4. Managing Elections in a Multiparty Political Dispensation: The Role of the Electoral Commission in Uganda’s 2011 Elections – Sabiti Makara

5. “Fading Support”? Explaining NRM’s Victory in Uganda’s 2011 Local Elections – William Muhumuzaiv

6. The Commercialisation of Uganda’s 2011 Election in the Urban

Informal Economy: Money, Boda-Bodas and Market Vendors – Kristof Titeca

7. Domestication, Coercion and Resistance: The Media in CentralUganda during the 2011 Elections – Florence Brisset-Foucault

8. A “Hot Cake”: The Land Issue in the Buganda Kingdom during

Uganda’s 2011 Elections – Lauriane Gay

9. International Donors in Uganda’s 2011 Elections – Jonathan Fisher

10. A View from Mengo, Some Views on Mengo: Voices on the 2011

General Elections in Buganda – Anna Baral

11. Peace, Security and Elections in Northern Uganda – Paul Omach

12. An NRM Recapture of Teso in 2011? What Voting Means in a

Hybrid Regime – Sandrine Perrot

13. Culture and Politics in the Spotlight: Ugandan Politics and

Music Celebrities – Nanna Schneidermann

14. Epilogue: From the February 2011 Elections to the Walk-to-Work

Protests. Did Ugandans Really Want “Another Rap?” – Sandrine Perrot

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