Disputed election victory for Uganda's Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni overwhelmingly won re-election in Uganda’s first multiparty elections in 25 years, according to official results announced today, but the leading opposition party said its independent tally indicated otherwise.

Museveni, who has been in power for more than 20 years, last year lifted a presidential two-term limit so he could run again. A European Union observers’ mission criticised Museveni for using all the resources of the government to win, and said that the vote – although an improvement on past ballots – was marred by serious problems.

The official results of Thursday’s vote, based on 91 percent of the polling stations reporting, showed Museveni with 60.80% of the vote; opposition leader Kizza Besigye with 35.96%; and the other three candidates sharing a little more than 3%.

Electoral officials said they had counted 6,640,430 votes. More than 10.4 million people registered, and turnout was estimated at more than 65%.

Voters also elected 284 members of parliament.

The Electoral Commission was expected to release complete, final official results this afternoon.

But a spokeswoman for Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Changes, Sara Eperu, said the results announced by the commission did not match the party’s independent tally gathered directly from the country’s more than 19,000 polling stations, which she said showed a much closer race.

Eperu said the party would release its results after the Electoral Commission finalises the official tally.

Ofwono Opondo, spokesman for the ruling National Resistance Movement, said he was not surprised by the opposition’s rejection of the official results.

“They are bad losers, but it is up to the population of Uganda to decide,” he said.

The ballots were counted at each polling station and the results immediately announced. The two main political parties and local media also collected results from the stations and produced results starkly different from the official results.

Police have questioned the managing director of the Monitor Media Group, the largest independent newspaper and radio broadcaster in Uganda. The government has placed intense pressure on the group to suspend its independent count, said Conrad Nkutu, the managing director.

Nkutu said he had appealed to the minister of internal affairs to investigate and stop the blockage of the group’s website and the jamming of the group’s radio signal.

National police chief Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura said the independent reporting of results was illegal, and said police had recovered 18 petrol bombs, reportedly assembled by militant members of Besigye’s party.

The European Union mission on Friday said the amended Uganda constitution - changed in July to allow for multiparty elections and for Museveni to run as many times as he wishes – “failed to provide the basis for a fair multiparty election, because it envisages the continuation” of the ruling party.

Max van den Berg, the EU chief observer, said Besigye’s campaign was hampered by numerous court appearances – he faced rape and other charges which Besigye said were trumped up to hurt him politically.

“Therefore a level playing field was not in place for these elections,” van den Berg said.

Museveni was hailed as a new kind of leader when he agreed to term limits and economic liberalisation a decade ago. But in recent years, international donors have cut funding to his government and have criticised his moves to consolidate power and quash dissent.

The EU also found that Museveni and his National Resistance Movement dominated state-run radio and television and used state resources to campaign. But the mission complimented the Electoral Commission for improving the voting and counting process.

There were also widespread reports of voters being turned away from polling stations because their names were not found on the voter register, even though they had photo identification cards issued by the Electoral Commission.

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