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“Madness” to hold Uganda vote if virus persists – Museveni

“Madness” to hold Uganda vote if virus persists – Museveni
epa07817055 Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda speaks during a plenary session of the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) titled Working towards Peace at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, South Africa, 04 September 2019. The World Economic Forum on Africa runs 04-06 September 2019. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

KAMPALA, May 12 (Reuters) - Uganda's long-serving President Yoweri Museveni has said it would be wrong to hold a presidential election expected for early next year if the coronavirus persists, signalling for the first time a possible delay.

“To have elections when the virus is still there… It will be madness,” the 75-year-old Museveni, whom opponents cast as an authoritarian clinging to power, said in an interview with the local NBS Television aired late on Monday.

Uganda has recorded a relatively low case load of the COVID-19 disease – 121 infections and no deaths – and began easing a strict national lockdown a few days ago.

Though no date had been fixed for the 2021 election, it is typically held in February.

In power since 1986, former rebel fighter Museveni has not confirmed whether he would run again, though the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has already asked him to be their flagbearer and voters expect him to stand.

The strongest opposition aspirant is pop star and lawmaker Bobi Wine whose music endears him to the young.

Opposition leaders and rights groups accuse Museveni of cracking down on critics with intimidation, detentions, torture and tear-gassing of opposition rallies. The government denies that, saying arrests are to preserve the law.

Under the 45-day lockdown that authorities started to ease last week, most businesses were shuttered, public gatherings banned, schools closed and movements largely curtailed.

Museveni’s doubt over holding the election contrasts with nearby Burundi where campaigns are in full throttle ahead of a presidential election next week.

There was no immediate reaction from Wine or his camp to the president’s comment on the election. (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Andrew Cawthorne)

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