Africa

ELECTION TURBULENCE

Museveni takes a big lead in Uganda presidential poll as the opposition cries foul 

Archive Photo: Yoweri Museveni Archive Photo: Uganda incumbent and President elect Yoweri Museveni addresses the nation at his country home in Rwakitura

Uganda could be headed for post-election turbulence as official early results showed President Yoweri Museveni taking a commanding lead after Thursday’s presidential poll, whereas his main rival, reggae singer Bobi Wine, has already reportedly rejected the provisional results so far.

With about 30% of ballots counted, President Yoweri Museveni had scored about 63% of the vote.  His main opponent, Bobi Wine was trailing a poor second, with about 29%, according to official electoral commission figures.

The remaining nine presidential candidates could only attract a little over 100,000 votes combined. Legislative elections were also held on Thursday.

Henry Muguzi, executive director of the Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring, part of a wider coalition of civil society organisations observing the elections, told DM168 that Wine had rejected the results so far. Wine himself could not be reached because of the internet blackout by the government since the eve of the poll.

Though Wine is entitled to contest the final result, expected late on Saturday, in the courts, the history of the campaign so far suggests demonstrations by his supporters are likely – and so is an overreaction by the security forces.

In November more than 50 of Wine’s supporters were shot dead by these security forces at a protest, and he and his staff have often been assaulted or arrested.

Muguzi also cast doubt on the results announced so far, saying that Museveni was winning districts in western Uganda with “unbelievable” shares of 98.99% and 100% of the vote. Wine, more credibly, was winning districts in central and parts of eastern Uganda by more believable margins of 68% to 80%.

Muguzi said voting on Thursday had mostly gone peacefully, though with some delays in opening voting stations and a few violent incidents. Local media also reported that machines to check biometric data had failed, possibly because of the internet blackout. He said Uganda was tense and Kampala was almost empty, with a large presence of military and police forces on Friday.

He complained that about 30 members of the local election observation coalition – about 2,400 people – had been arrested for supposedly running a parallel vote-tallying centre in Kampala. He insisted it was a base for organising election observation and processing data, which was not illegal. The observers remained in police custody at midday Friday, he said.

He also said the government had closed the bank accounts of several civil society organisations involved in the elections. Some provided voter education. “It’s clear that the electoral commission is acting on orders from another person above,” he said, clearly referring to Museveni. “The regime has consistently been accusing civil society organisations advocating democracy of acting as agents of international agents trying to remove the regime. This is baseless.”

The government has also been accused of clamping down on the media and suppressing the political opposition. The internet blackout on the eve of election day appeared to have thwarted Wine’s plan to bypass any official rigging of the vote by announcing results directly from polling stations.

Wine, who heads the National Unity Platform (NUP), also complained on Twitter on Thursday that NUP agents had been thrown out of polling stations, in violation of the law, and that the military and police had arrested people found distributing appointment letters for NUP polling agents the day before voting.

“Conspiracy by the dictator & his biased Electoral Commission is in a new phase,” he wrote. “A plot to rig is set, internet is completely shut down & media is censored. However, the pple of uganda are firm and nothing will stop them from ending this oppresive regime. #WeAreRemovingADictator.”

He added: “No matter what they do, the world is watching.”

Bobi Wine is the stage name of the 38-year-old Robert Kyagulanyi, a businessman and member of Parliament, who seemed to pose the biggest challenge so far to Museveni’s 35 years in office. Museveni seized power militarily in 1986, ending Uganda’s darkest period under Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

The 76-year-old Museveni is hoping to extend his term in office to 40 years. He would be entitled to run again in 2026 for another five years, after twice amending the constitution, first to remove the limit of two presidential terms and then to remove the age limit of 75.

There were no official external foreign election observer missions for this election.

The European Union, which sends observers to most African elections, refused to attend because, it said, Museveni’s government had ignored its recommendations on the 2016 poll.

US ambassador Natalie Brown announced on Wednesday the cancellation of the US Diplomatic Observer Mission. She said the Electoral Commission of Uganda had denied accreditation to more than 75% of the proposed US observers.

“With only 15 accreditations approved, it is not possible for the United States to meaningfully observe the conduct of Uganda’s elections at polling sites across the country.”

Brown also noted that the electoral commission had denied accreditation to other diplomatic missions and large numbers of Ugandan observers. DM

 

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