On Thursday, at least 94,824 registered voters in the oil-rich Hoima District will participate in an LCV by-election that could serve as a litmus test for opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine.
This comes after weeks of his highly charged political rallies across the country.
Until September 13, 2023, Kyagulanyi appeared to be gaining momentum in his quest for political change in Uganda, as his campaign activities proceeded relatively smoothly, free from police or military intervention.
The by-election, set to replace the late chairman Kadiri Kirungi, pits Moses Aguuda, representing the National Unity Platform (NUP), against first-time candidate Uthuman Mubaraka Mugisha, who not only hails from an influential family but is also the son of the former district leader.
While the poll is closely contested between Aguuda and NRM candidate Mugisha, they face competition from Vincent Savana Muhumuza, the defiant NRM vice chairman of Hoima District, who chose to run as an independent after a contested primary election.
Aguuda, who is returning to competitive politics after a third-place finish in the 2021 general elections, expressed confidence in Kyagulanyi’s endorsement and its potential to sway voters in his favor, even in the NRM stronghold of Hoima District.
Other candidates in the race include Patrick Musinguzi of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party and independent candidate Lenox Mugume.
The outcome of the by-election is eagerly awaited, with many viewing it as a significant indicator of support for both the ruling NRM party and the opposition, particularly NUP.
A victory for any of the leading contenders could have implications for Uganda’s political landscape, and some voters believe it may reflect growing support for opposition parties in rural areas.
However, election observer Brian Ayesiga emphasized the importance of a free and fair election to objectively test these hypotheses.
Despite a police ban on Kyagulanyi’s planned nationwide mobilization campaigns, many voters believe the by-election will serve as an experiment in examining crowd politics in Uganda, with an eye on the 2026 general elections.