A female teenager fresh out of high school has won a seat in Uganda’s parliament, adding to the ruling party’s majority but embarrassing some who say her success lowers expectations of lawmakers in the East African country.
Proscovia Oromait, who is 19 and a college hopeful, contested elections deep in eastern Uganda to fill the seat left vacant by her father’s death.
President Yoweri Museveni’s ruling party had been desperate for a win there, having lost seven in eight parliamentary by-elections this year.
The polls have come to be widely seen as a test of Museveni’s popularity, and some party bosses calculated that she would win with a sympathy vote.
The result was Uganda’s youngest lawmaker ever — and a boost for Museveni’s party, the Associated Press reports.
Michael Mukula, a lawmaker who is one of the ruling party’s deputy chairmen, said Oromait’s win had sent “a lot of ripples” through the organisation, dividing it into reformers and hardliners who want to win by any means necessary.
“I am a bit concerned and taken aback because of her lack of experience and lack of exposure,” Mukula said of Oromait. “This is not a constituency you want to give a child of that age to shoulder.”
Oromait will represent a place called Usuk, where dirt roads become flooded in the rainy season and where there is only one functional high school.
This rural constituency of some 100,000 people is said to be thoroughly impoverished, even by Uganda’s standards. But last week it was thrust firmly into the national limelight, the latest battleground in the ruling party’s quest to claim a reassuring win and silence critics who say Museveni’s popularity is starting to fade.
Museveni, who took power by force in 1986, has not said if he will run again in 2016, when his current term expires, but he faces growing opposition within and outside his party to step down and preside over the first peaceful transfer of power in Uganda’s history.