Snap analysis: Museveni seen prevailing after disputed vote win

KAMPALA Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:06am EST

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa's longest serving leaders, won election to a fourth term in office by a huge margin on Sunday in a presidential vote the opposition rejected.

Here's a look at what's next for east Africa's third largest economy that expects to start pumping oil next year:

IMMEDIATE FALLOUT

* The most important thing to watch for now is how the opposition reacts. Presidential challenger Kizza Besigye has dismissed the results and will keep Ugandans informed of his next move once he has consulted with other party and religious leaders.

He has repeatedly warned that his supporters may hold Egypt-style protests if he deems the vote was unfair, but has not directly called for street action .

* "I think that Besigye has lost the momentum now 48 hours after the vote. People in Uganda are deflated and demoralized because another election has been rigged but, in the absence of Besigye actually calling for protests, they will wonder why they should risk their lives," columnist Timothy Kalyegira.

* The electoral commission has said the opposition must drown its sorrows and "remain within legal provisions."

Museveni has said Besigye will be arrested if he tries to spark trouble and said he will "bundle" protesters into jail. Besigye's arrest after his return from exile in 2005 sparked violent protests in Kampala.

* European Union observers said that the power of incumbency was exercised to such an extent as to compromise severely the level playing field between the competing candidates and political parties. But the absence of stronger criticism may dissuade Besigye from pushing for demonstrations.

OPPOSITION RESPONSE

* The opposition has a number of options. They can accept defeat, they can appeal to the Supreme Court, or they can call the much-threatened protests.

* Besigye unsuccessfully appealed in 2001 and 2006, when he also ran for president and lost. While the court rule the elections were marred by vote-rigging and violence against the opposition, it said the overall result was not affected.

* The opposition says they will not waste time with the Supreme Court again but Besigye will be loath to concede to bitter enemy Museveni. Still, with such a resounding majority for Museveni, and a relative lack of campaign violence, it could prove difficult for Besigye to convince the public that the presidency was stolen.

Most analysts doubt that protests similar to those in the Arab world could break out in Uganda due to lower levels of education and widespread fear of the army.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

* Museveni will now guide Uganda through its emergence as a top-50 oil producer, amid concerns this will add to state corruption.

International investors in the East African country's nascent oil industry may breathe a sigh of relief. They have had problems with Museveni but Besigye is an unknown quantity.

* "The biggest challenge for Museveni ... is the advent of oil revenue. This will transform economic policy-making, posing challenges for the maintenance of macroeconomic stability and improved transparency in government spending, while placing greater pressure on poor public financial management systems," said Joseph Lake of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

* Museveni will continue to position himself as a Western ally, particularly close to the United States. His troops make up the brunt of an African Union peacekeeping force largely responsible for keeping Islamists from taking power in Somalia.

* His government will also remain the closest ally of its emerging neighbor, South Sudan, Uganda's main export destination, which is also likely to buy him growing clout.

(Editing by Richard Lough and Mark Heinrich)

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