Uganda leader takes early poll lead

Provisional results by electoral commission give Yoweri Museveni 70 per cent versus 23 per cent for his main challenger.

    Uganda's president has taken an early lead as election officials begin to declare results from a relatively calm election in which both the incumbent leader and his main rival are predicting victory.

    Provisional results from the country's electoral commission showed Yoweri Museveni had polled 1.6 million votes, or 70 per cent, of the two million votes submitted while Kizza Besigye, his main challenger, had taken 520,000 votes, or 23 per cent.

    However, the commission said that close to six hours after polling stations closed, reporting officers from more than 100 districts - out of 117 - had yet to hand in their results.

    "If we keep getting results, we'll keep on working through the night," Sam Rwakoojo, the commission's secretary, told the AFP news agency, as he supervised tallying in the national stadium's conference centre on Saturday.

    The election attracted eight candidates, including one woman, but Museveni - in power for 25 years - is widely expected by analysts to win, partly due to incumbency advantages.

    The president said before the polls that he was confident that his achievements in ensuring economic stability and security would result in a landslide win.

    At least 13 million voters, out of a total population of just under 33 million, were registered to vote and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) claims seven million of these voters are party members.

    Besigye, who is challenging Museveni for the third time, has alleged bribery of voters by Museveni and has vowed that  his own tallying centre will take figures to ensure the results the electoral commission declare are not different from his.

    Both men were previous allies, with Besigye serving as Museveni's personal physician and as a cabinet minister, in the armed struggle that brought them to power.

    Each has to gain more than 50 per cent of the vote to avoid a run-off. 

    Commission apology

    The previous elections Besigye contested in 2001 and 2006  were marred by irregularities, forcing him to seek redress from the country's supreme court, but judges ruled that electoral malpractices were not on a large enough scale to alter the outcome of the vote.

    The electoral commission, accused of incompetence and bias by Besigye's coalition of smaller parties, has apologised for glitches in Friday's election which saw the exercise getting off to a slow start.

    In some parts of Kampala, the capital, election materials arrived late at polling stations and one presidential candidate arrived at a polling station to find his name on the register was missing, although he was able to vote in the course of the day.

    Friday's vote is the second multi-party election Uganda has held since a ban on parties imposed in 1986, when Museveni took power, was lifted in 2005.

    Term limits were removed from the constitution in the same year to allow the president to seek re-election as many times as he wants.

    'Peaceful election'

    Kampala, whose bars are usually teeming with revellers on Friday nights, was eerily quiet as the country awaited the early results.

    "It has been a very peaceful and successful election. Out of the 117 districts in the country, we have reports of violences in only 10 districts," Judith Nabakooba, the national police spokesman, told reporters.

    The only major incidents reported were a ruling party supporter beaten to death in the west and a journalist hospitalised with a gunshot wound in the country's east.

    Besigye's coalition nevertheless stopped short of dismissing Friday's ballot as invalid when polling closed and said it was compiling irregularities.

    A spokeswoman for the Inter-party Co-operation (IPC), of which Besigye is a flag bearer, said a massive deployment of vote 'protectors' charged with monitoring fraud around the country was partly effective, but said that they had met with "a lot of intimidation".

    If re-elected, Museveni, 66, will extend his 25-year-old rule by five years and join Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, among others, in a club of African leaders who have ruled for more than 30 years. 

    Besigye has said he will only accept defeat if he is convinced Museveni won without rigging.

    He said that If it turned out that fraud had taken place he would tell voters to reclaim their victory by staging an Egypt-style uprising, which brought down Hosni Mubarak's government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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