Mon, Feb 21, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Uganda’s Museveni on brink of election victory

NEWEST MEMBER:Yoweri Museveni is poised to join the club of African leaders who’ve been in power for 30 years and more, including those in Libya and Zimbabwe

AFP, KAMPALA

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye displays ballot papers in Kampala on Saturday that he said were stuffed in the ballot box by rivals, as he complained of irregularities in the presidential elections.

Photo: AFP

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni seized an unassailable lead yesterday, as poll officials wrapped up tallying, taking more than two-thirds of the vote amid fraud claims from his main rival.

According to electoral commission chairman Badru Kiggundu, the incumbent, who has ruled the east African country for 25 years, won 68.28 percent of the 8.1 million votes counted so far following Friday’s polls.

Kiggundu did not provide a turnout figure, but said the votes from only 550 out of 24,000 polling stations remained to be processed.

When asked whether Museveni could still mathematically be forced into a second round, another electoral board official said: “It seems impossible.”

The veteran leader’s main rival Kizza Besigye — who has complained of widespread irregularities before, during and after polling — had only garnered 26.12 percent of the vote at the same stage of tallying.

“The results released by the electoral commission do not represent the will of the people,” Margaret Wokuri, spokeswoman for Besigye’s Inter-party Cooperation (IPC) opposition platform, told reporters.

“There was intimidation, bribery and very clear ballot stuffing. I think now really the world knows what kind of elections we have in Uganda,” she said.

The electoral commission acknowledged some minor irregularities, but insisted they had been dealt with and said full official results were expected to be announced shortly.

Poll observers reported some flaws in the electoral process.

In an interim statement, Commonwealth observer group chair Billie Miller said that “the main concern regarding the campaign and indeed the overall character of the election was the lack of a level playing field.”

“This statement reflects improvements which were welcome and encouraging. However there remain shortcomings which need to be addressed,” she told reporters.

Besigye, the most prominent of Museveni’s seven challengers, vowed beforehand that only rigging could deprive him of victory and accused the electoral body of being partial.

He told reporters on Saturday he would convene a meeting with his top advisers yesterday to decide on the best course of action for his movement.

Parallel counting was conducted in a secret tallying center by a small army of number-crunchers from his IPC coalition with the aim of challenging official results.

However, with only a fraction of the returns from polling stations trickling into the shadow center, Besigye’s parallel tallying appeared to have backfired as even his partial results gave Museveni 62 percent of the vote.

Polls opened late in some parts of the capital Kampala, which voted against Museveni in the 2006 elections, prompting opposition claims that the president was trying to cheat his way to re-election.

Museveni now looked assured of extending his rule by five years, joining Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, among others, in a club of African leaders who have ruled more than 30 years.

Opponents of Museveni had warned Uganda was ripe for the kind of uprising currently sweeping the Arab world, raising fears of unrest stemming from yet -another post-election dispute on the continent.

However, Museveni has dismissed any suggestion a wave of popular discontent could rattle his firm grip on east Africa’s second economy and polling day passed without major incident or sign of anti-regime mobilization.

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