Uganda's Museveni set for win, opposition cry foul

KAMPALA Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:37pm EST

Uganda's IPC spokesperson Margaret Wokuri displays illegal presidential election ballot papers as she addresses a news conference in capital Kampala February 19, 2011.REUTERS/Benedicte Desrus

Uganda's IPC spokesperson Margaret Wokuri displays illegal presidential election ballot papers as she addresses a news conference in capital Kampala February 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Benedicte Desrus

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - Veteran leader Yoweri Museveni was on course to extend his rule to 30 years after provisional results on Saturday gave him a commanding lead, but the opposition said the presidential election had been fixed.

Analysts had forecast a closely fought contest, but provisional electoral commission results from about two-thirds of polling stations handed Museveni 69 percent of the votes counted, with rival Kizza Besigye trailing on 25 percent.

"It's already very clear there were widespread malpractices in the electoral process," Besigye told a news conference.

"It is now clear the will of the people cannot be expressed through the electoral process in this kind of corrupt and repressive political environment," he said.

Besigye said huge sums had been used to buy votes, bribe polling agents, candidates in the simultaneous parliamentary election, and electoral officials. But he stopped short of categorically rejecting the result.

The 54-year-old, who is facing his former ally Museveni in a presidential poll for the third time, said his Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) coalition would meet tomorrow to decide its next move.

Besigye had planned to release his own poll tally before the official results and said that, if both sets of figures did not match, it would mean the elections were rigged and his supporters would take to streets.

But he said the IPC's SMS text message system for collecting results had been blocked by the government.

"We've lost faith in the courts, people can protest," he told reporters. "You've seen protests remove dictators elsewhere in the world."

Besigye, Museveni's field doctor during the guerrilla war that thrust the 67-year-old into power, has repeatedly warned Uganda is ripe for an Egyptian-style uprising as it prepares to pump oil next year.

"REVOLT? LET HIM TRY"

Museveni, in power since 1986, has threatened to arrest Besigye if he tries to start protests while demonstrators will be "bundled" into the courts and jail.

"Revolt? Let him try, let him try, because the hour is here now, and then he will know what it means to revolt," Museveni told reporters late on Friday at his ranch in Rwakitura.

"How can Besigye win? By magic?"

Many Ugandans complain of widespread corruption and a lack of investment in basic public services and infrastructure, but others respect Museveni for bringing stability to a country once plagued by brutal despots such as Idi Amin.

The streets of the capital Kampala were calm after the poll but security was heavy with large numbers of armed police and soldiers on patrol, and small number of locals discussing the election in cafes and bars.

"I think Besigye should concede now so that we have peace," Asman Ali, a 27-year-old caretaker told Reuters.

"You can see from the results that Museveni is still popular for bringing us peace," said Judith Mikami although she agreed with Besigye that the poll was a fraud.

"Museveni just holds fake elections to fool the world," she said.

Voters across the country told Reuters candidates from all parties had offered bribes to secure votes, though the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) was accused more often.

Analysts said that after past election campaigns were marred by violence, NRM attempts to sway voters had been more subtle this time to avoid alarming foreign donors and investors.

(Editing by Richard Lough and Jon Boyle)

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