Veteran Uganda Leader Museveni on Track For Election Victory

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is set to clinch a sixth straight election victory, with preliminary results showing he trounced his nearest rival -- whose party is disputing the initial count.

With 9.8 million ballots tallied from 91% of polling stations, Museveni garnered 59% support, and pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine 35%, the Electoral Commission of Uganda said on state television on Saturday. The nation has 18.1 million registered voters out of a population of about 45 million.

Veteran Uganda Leader Museveni on Track For Election Victory

Wine, 38, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi and who became a lawmaker in 2017, presented himself as a youthful alternative to the 76-year-old Museveni -- who came to power in a coup in 1986. The campaign was marred by violence and opposition allegations that the government was trying to rig the outcome in favor of the incumbent.

Final results are expected to be announced later on Saturday. The U.S., European Union and several civil rights groups said the authorities hindered the opposition’s campaign, undermining the integrity of the vote.

Wine’s National Unity Platform rejected the initial results. The party is keeping its own tally based on announcements made at polling stations around the country, spokesman Joel Ssenyonyi said.

“Let him show the country in what manner and what form the results are rigged,” the electoral body’s chairman, Simon Byabakama, told reporters in the capital, Kampala.

Veteran Uganda Leader Museveni on Track For Election Victory

Wine said in a Twitter posting on Friday that members of the military had scaled his fence and seized control of his home.

“None of these military intruders is talking to us,” he said. “We are in serious trouble. We are under siege.”

The police denied raiding Wine’s home.

It was unclear whether Wine had been physically harmed, his lawyer Robert Amsterdam said by phone.

“Let’s be clear, this is not a free and fair election. This is a situation where Museveni is attempting to legitimize a dictatorship, “Amsterdam said. “There is no Museveni win. That’s already clear from the polls that he’s lost.”

Strong Support

Museveni is one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers. He retains strong support in rural areas, and wields strong influence over the state -- a major advantage in a nation that has long been dogged by electoral disputes.

The economy has performed better than most of its African peers under Museveni’s watch. Gross domestic product likely contracted 0.3% last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, after expanding an average of 6.7% over the previous three years, according to the International Monetary Fund. It is projected to expand 4.9% this year and 5.5% in 2022.

Africa’s biggest-coffee exporter, Uganda plans to start shipments of crude by 2024 and political stability will aid the implementation of oil-related investments of as much as $20 billion. Companies including Total SE expect to reach final investment decisions for projects that include a transnational oil pipeline within the next few months.

The country’s economic prospects will largely hinge on how Museveni’s administration handles a more vibrant opposition and the risk that it could resort to unrest to overturn the election outcome. Several cabinet ministers lost their parliamentary seats to members of Wine’s party, which is projected to become the biggest opposition group.

A least 54 people died after protests erupted in November following Wine’s arrest. Police and soldiers have used armored personnel carriers to patrol the capital in operations they said were aimed at thwarting election-related violence.

Ugandans also had to contend with an internet shutdown after authorities directed telecommunications operators to switch it off. That and the failure of the electoral body to accredit observers from diplomatic mission could put the integrity of the Jan. 14 vote into question.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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