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Uganda Prez likely to win polls

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni looks likely to continue in power in the country's first multi-party poll, in spite of a strong opposition challenge.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2006 15:28 IST

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni looks likely to extend his grip on power inthe country'sfirst multi-party poll, in spite of an unprecedented opposition challenge.

Once a favourite of the West but now condemned by critics as a typical African "Big Man" after 20 years in power, Museveni will probably win with more than 50 percent of the votes and avoid a run-off with his main rival Kizza Besigye, analysts say.

The former herd-boy, who led a 5-year rebellion that brought him to power in 1986, says he is the only one who can preserve stability in a country once torn apart by the likes of dictator Idi Amin and surrounded by conflict in neighbouring states.

Museveni points to achievements like steady economic growth and social achievements such as free primary education during his tenure.

But Besigye, 49 Museveni's physician during the 1981-86 war and now leader of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change, says his former boss has transformed himself into a dictator who is desperate to cling to power.

This message has taken root among some of the former British colony's 27 million people. The latest poll gave Besigye 36 percent support, compared with 47 percent for Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement.

Analysts caution that polls give too much weight to urban areas, where Besigye has most support. This means that Museveni, 62, will probably win by a bigger margin.

"He would have got above 50 percent anyway, but I think he is going to win about 62 percent with some help from rigging," political commentator Andrew Mwenda said.

"He needs a strong margin to legitimise a third term," Mwenda said, adding that a statistical analysis showed the electoral register had been inflated by about one million "ghost" voters to guarantee a big Museveni win.

The government, which re-introduced multi-party politics last year after a referendum, meanwhile denies any intention of fraud and accuses the Opposition of stirring up trouble.

First Published: Feb 21, 2006 15:28 IST