As many have observed, elections are not won on the polling day but rather before the Election Day. Beyond laying a strong base for policy alternatives, political parties must also be preoccupied with building effective party structures right from the grass roots to national level. It is from such structures that parties should be able to identify potential competitive candidates for elective positions. Judging from the recent by-elections (in Usuk, Kween, Butaleja, Butebo, Buhweju), parties still have challenges in fielding competitive candidates and identifying committed polling agents. By now, parties should have already identified polling agents for every polling area in the country - agents who are well-equipped and are able to document electoral malpractices and manage verification systems such as parallel vote tallying.

Since the re-establishment of multi-party democracy in 2005, parties have focused on short-term solutions to winning elections. To have a more effective pluralist political system in the long run, parties must strengthen their institutional foundations and non-campaign activities even in between elections. Strengthening these party features will help multi-party democracy not only to survive but to thrive as it attempts to establish itself as a permanent feature of the political landscape of Uganda.

Political parties are central to any democratic political system. They are a key linkage between citizens and government. By contesting elections, political parties aim to mobilise popular support for a particular vision of how society should be organised. It is time, that parties recognise the noble place they hold and prove their ability to respond to and reflect the needs and aspirations of their supporters.

Parties must therefore, in a timely manner invest in developing and marketing high quality, more appealing, 'made in Uganda' policies. This also calls for parties to 'liberalise' their policy development efforts and leverage from research, citizen ideas, and civil society information banks.
Good Luck ahead of 2016!