Uganda president predicts poll win

Yoweri Museveni rejects challenger's assertion that country is ripe for Egypt-style revolt ahead of Friday's election.

    Uganda's president has predicted a landslide victory in elections this week, dismissing his main challenger's assertion that the country is ripe for an Egypt-style uprising if voting is deemed unfair.

    Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, told reporters at the presidential palace in Entebbe ahead of Friday's election that "we shall win with a big majority".

    Commentators believe the presidential and parliamentary elections could be the closest since Museveni, a former fighter leader, grabbed power as head of the National Resistance Army in 1986.

    In polls in 1996, he took 75 per cent of the vote, but his share dropped to 69 per cent in 2001 and to 59 per cent in the 2006 election.

    The last election was held barely a year after the constitution was amended to remove term limits, paving the way for Museveni to seek re-election as many times as he wants.

    Tens of thousands of youths attended Museven's final rally at an airstrip on the outskirts of the capital Kampala on Wednesday.

    'Change is coming'

    All those attending the rally, which included a concert by local musicians, had to undergo body checks to prevent the kind of attacks Uganda suffered last July when bombers angry at Ugandan troops' presence in Somalia set off explosions, killing more than 70 people in the capital.

    Observers say the opposition's best hope is to deprive Museveni of more than 50 per cent of the vote, and then unite against him in a run-off.

    Kizza Besigye, the most prominent of his seven challengers, says Uganda has floundered under Museveni's rule and that the opposition could trigger a wave of revolt similar to that has deposed autocratic presidents in Egypt and Tunisia.

    Besigye's election posters around Kampala promise "Change is Coming", but Museveni has dismissed comparisons with events in North Africa.

    "We are not worried at all ... you just wait, you will see," Museveni said. "There will be no Egypt-like revolution here ... Egypt is a different story. Tunisia is a different story."

    Besigye said during the campaign that only rigging by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) can deprive him of victory, and pledged to produce his own vote tally to challenge the official result, if necessary.

    Asked how he would react if Ugandans take to the streets to contest the poll results, Museveni said: "We just lock them up ... bundle them into jail and [bring them] to the courts."

    Analysts' prediction

    Despite the apparent narrowness between the contenders, most analysts believe that Museveni, 67, will still secure enough votes to win another five-year term.

    "By the end of these five years Uganda will be a middle-income country. I will not allow Besigye and others to mess up that plan," said Museveni before heading into the capital for a final campaign meeting.

    Besigye, meanwhile, held his last campaign rally on the campus of Makerere university. More than 10,000 enthusiastic supporters danced and screamed as they waited for his last speech of the campaign.

    "I'm here to join and sing in one voice that change is coming," said 20-year-old Besigye supporter Jonathan Mukiibi. "Museveni has not provided anything for us."

    Besigye ran against Museveni in 2001 and contested the results, but fled the country months after the election claiming he was being harassed and persecuted.

    He returned in 2005 to contest the 2006 election while at the same time fighting off trumped-up rape and treason charges which were only dismissed after the polls had taken place.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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