KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is expected to win a fourth term in a general election on February 18 despite a strong challenge from third-time opponent Kizza Besigye.
Here are a few likely scenarios for the national vote and the impact it may have on east Africa’s third largest economy.
Besigye heads the four-party Inter Party Cooperation coalition and he has told Reuters opposition supporters could bring Tunisia- and Egypt-style “chaos” to the streets if it perceives the voting exercise as not being fair.
Besigye has pledged to release a tally of the results, despite threats of arrest by his rival Museveni if he does so. Besigye says if his tally does not match the official results, his supporters may protest.
If protests break out, they could turn violent and Besigye may be arrested for provoking trouble, sparking more violence.
Recent falls in the country’s currency, the shilling, could worsen if fighting breaks out.
Plans to start production of oil in Uganda could also be affected. Britain’s Tullow Oil has already delayed plans to start production from this year to next.
If Besigye accepts a Museveni win, Uganda’s stability could be assured at a time it plans to start producing oil.
Foreign investors and donors’ funds could flow back into a country that has maintained macroeconomic stability, and is aiming to increase domestic revenues and rely less on loans.
Aid accounts for about 30 percent of Uganda’s annual budget, and the country faces widespread poverty, high unemployment and a dilapidated road and railway network.
Western powers would also continue to back Museveni’s strong stance against a regional security threat posed by al Qaeda-linked Somali militants.
Some analysts think Museveni might not readily step aside even if he lost the election. They say that after such a long stint at the helm, Museveni believes he is destined to steer Uganda through the crucial next five years.
Museveni last month attacked the United Nations for recognizing opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as winner of Ivory Coast’s disputed election, saying the move was hasty. This alarmed the Ugandan opposition, who say it may mean he is willing to cling on to power even if he loses.
The reaction of the army would be key. Some suspect it could oust Besigye if Museveni, who founded it, is defeated. The army has said it would accept the voters’ choice.
Many Ugandans and analysts say this would be a major shock.
Investors eyeing the oil industry may be finding it difficult to deal with Museveni’s government, but they are likely to be even more worried if they had to deal with Besigye, mainly because he is an unknown quantity.
A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable has cast doubt on whether the opposition could govern effectively.
Many Ugandans want what they see as years of corrupt government to be investigated if Museveni’s ruling party loses power, though Besigye has said he would let bygones be bygones.
Under Uganda’s election rules, a run-off will happen if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote. That would remove six other opposition candidates from the race and it is likely most of their supporters would plump for Besigye.
If the first round vote is close, this unity could push Besigye to victory. The risk of rigging, mainly on the part of Museveni, may increase. But vote monitoring by the opposition and independent observers is likely to be hawk-eyed.
Editing by James Macharia