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Partisan defections in contemporary Uganda : the micro-dynamics of hegemonic party-building

Abstract : Party defections have increasingly become a major trend of Ugandan multiparty politics, not only for individual elites at the national level and in the parties’ leadership but at the grassroots level by local party members too. These shifts of allegiance are now systematically part of the staging and imagery of President Museveni’s electoral campaigns. A common explanation of this phenomenon points at the inconsistency of partisan loyalties and ideologies. It is often taken for granted that defections are expressions of clientelism, political opportunism and above all democratic immaturity and a misunderstanding of multipartyism. This paper argues on the contrary that mass defections reflect the social technology of the National Resistance Movement hegemonic rule at the local level, and the constraints for opposition parties whose structures it co-opts. They are part of the monopolisation of organisational initiatives at the grassroots level by the regime. Defections are not simply a symbol of electoral opportunism but part of a routine economic posture in a context of straddling lines between the economic and political spheres. Following up the trajectories of two specific groups of defectors from Teso over several years, this paper seeks to give precise insights on the local presence and rooting of political parties, their modes of mobilisation, recruitment, their repertoires of action, and more generally on the transformation of identities, partisan practices and political activism but also on the hegemonic ruling party’s mode of governance at the local level. This micro-sociologic approach opens windows on how hegemony is built in a dialogic way with local political entrepreneurs and vote brokers. Hegemonic rule therefore also contains its own limits as it requires a permanent renegotiation with individual actors embedded in a set of local power relationships.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - 11:18:00 PM
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Sandrine Perrot. Partisan defections in contemporary Uganda : the micro-dynamics of hegemonic party-building. Journal of Eastern African Studies, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2016, 10 (4), pp.713 - 728. ⟨10.1080/17531055.2016.1278325⟩. ⟨hal-03459102⟩

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