Uganda – Museveni intensifies control

Yoweri Museveni was sworn in for a fourth term as President of Uganda, in an official ceremony in front of invited heads of state including Robert Mugabe. But despite being credited with 68% of the popular vote, or because of that unfeasibly high figure, his Presidency remains contested. While a 21-gun salute fired out to greet the ‘new’ president, elsewhere in the city teargas, water-cannon and heavy sticks were used on opponents.


The main opposition leader, Kizza Bessigye, was arrested a fortnight ago in spectacular and very public circumstances (police using a hammer to smash through a side window of the vehicle he was travelling in, then using pepper-spray to blind him to facilitate his arrest). After receiving treatment in Nairobi for his injuries, he has returned to Kampala and a popular welcome.


Opposition to Museveni has bee growing increasingly urgent, and retaliation has increased in proportion. We should not be surprised then, that the Anti-homosexuality Bill and the similarly draconian HIV Control Bill should both be revived now. Both seek to control the population through a juridical response to biological factors and both enlist the wider population in a policing role worthy of Foucault’s panopticism; clauses in the Anti-homosexuality Bill make it a crime not to inform the authorities that a person is gay or lesbian.


Both of these Bills play on public ignorance and prejudices, in particular the homophobia that has been whipped up by visiting American evangelical Christian conservatives and Uganda pastors, and both (but particularly the anti-gay Bill) have been vigorously opposed outside Uganda by foreign governments, civil society and LGBT members of the African Diaspora. It is because of this foreign opposition that the Bill has been put on hold for over a year; it appears that domestic strife and opposition to Museveni, perhaps in the light of current popular movements in several Arab states, may be the reason for its revival.


How successful its revival may be is hard to quantify – Warren Throckmorton comments that it may have stalled ‘on a technicality’. Essentially, in the febrile atmosphere that is Kampala right now, we do not know the fate of these two Bills; all we can say with certainty is what the state of each is at any given moment.

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Bad Conspiracy Theorising…

My favourite interpretation of the riots in Egypt and Tunisia – over which ignorance still restrains me from prognosticating[1] – has come from Spike Milligan’s rotund Yankee spawn Glenn Beck. Communists! Islamists! And, er – Acorn! Around the world he flits, desperately trying to wedge pet hates into a narrative of Muslimo-Marxist suppression. None of it makes a lick of sense.

I know this tactic as Coincidence?![2]: the invocation of disparate factoids and semblances that might carry dark implications but are never pieced together into a coherent narrative that sceptics might interrogate. As portentous claim after ominous assertions hits one’s consciousness human patternicity overwhelms reason. This is very useful for tarring one’s opponents. For example, say I’ve got a deep, ingrained hatred of football. Well, I hear that football fans are a significant influence on the riots in Egypt. And what’s about the only demographic to have benefited from the Iraq war? Yes, footballers. Hrm – interesting. Now, is it coincidence that the Palestinian football team chose this of all occasions to tour Pakistan? Well, possibly. But is it just coincidence that the Saudis have had to do away with the president of their football federation? Hrm.

Then it hits you. Ah, yes, then it hits you. Ever wondered why Qatar triumphed in their world cup bid? Yes, it’s undeniable: the forces of football have been stamping their authority across the Middle East. They’re erecting a footballiphate. A socialist bootopia.

[1] But Jamie Kenny, John Robb and As’ad AbuKhalil have a lot of coverage.

[2] See also Deconstructiation, So That’s Your Little Game! and Are You Or Have You Ever Been?.

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Stabenow off to a shaky start in Michigan

Over the next 22 months I plan to blog, among other things, on American election campaigns of the 2012 cycle, and as a new poll on the Michigan Senate race has just been released, that seems a good place to start.

The poll shows Democrat incumbent Debbie Stabenow trailing her two most plausibe Republican opponents. Against Representative Peter Hoekstra she loses 41% to 47%. Against Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn it’s a similar story, 41% to 46%.

These numbers caught my eye, although it may seem naive to start thinking about the outcome of this race two years ahead of the election, with just one poll to go on. Nevertheless, I would like to imagine what would happen if these numbers persisted, because they may reflect a trend in Michigan politics that would have implications nationally. I want to compare two statewide election results, those of Stabenow’s 2006 re-election and the 2010 Gubernatorial contest. Granted, two very different campaigns, in completely different electoral climates. What links them is that they are landslides, 2006 a Democratic victory, 2010 a win for the Republicans. Taken with the Wilson Research poll, they provide an interesting perspective on the upcoming election.

To start with, the 2006 contest. Part of a Democratic wave, Senator Stabenow garners 57% against Sheriff Michael Bouchard’s 41%. Stabenow even carries Bouchard’s home territory, the Republican stronghold of the Oakland/Macomb region outside Detroit. Take a look at the map below showing Stabenow’s victory county by county.

It’s a comprehensive win across the state. Only the west, currently represented in Congress by potential 2012 opponent Peter Hoekstra, chooses the GOP, which also has limited support towards the North.

2010 is a very different scenario. Republican Businessman Rick Snyder carries the state to become Governor, 58% to 39% over the Democrat, Lansing mayor Virg Bernero.

Let’s take a look at the county map

It’s a reversal of 2006.

The Democrats carry the Wayne County region (including Detroit), Flint and the sparsely populated Gogebic county in the North West.

Taken at face value, the Wilson Research poll that shows Senator Stabenow at 41% would indicate we are headed for the second, much redder county map in 2012.

Is this possible? Could the candidate who defeated Spencer Abraham be routed in such a way? Certainly. The recession began earlier in Michigan than elsewhere in the United States and currently the state unemployment rate stands at 11.3%.

The economy is traditionally a big driver in Michigan elections and if things remain like this, then voters will likely be in a mood to punish Democrat incumbents.  The dynamics that led to Snyders victory last November have not yet changed. The Wilson Reasearch poll indicates a sharp drop in Stabenow’s support amoung independents, white voters and men, on the scale of the 2010 results. 2010 was an election which saw a low turnout of Democrats however. It is unlikely that this will be repeated in a presidential election year, which should help Stabenow in the Detroit metro region and around Ann Arbor.

What is worrying for Democrats about this poll is that it shows a continuing weakness in the party brand in the state. If the headline statewide race is looking to shape up like the 2010 catastrophe, that could affect the Presidential side of the ballot as well. In 2008 this traditional swing state was conceded by the McCain campaign weeks before election day. Judging by this poll, and their recent revival, Republican strategists would be well advised to consider fighting for Michigan this time round.

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