Ugandans say ‘no’ to multiparty politics

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Kampala – In a referendum marked by low voter turnout, Ugandans have overwhelmingly rejected multiparty politics in favour of continuing with President Yoweri Museveni “no-party” system, according to provisional national results announced on Saturday.

With about 88 percent of the 16 500 polling stations in the Central African nation reporting, the Electoral Commission said 91 percent of the votes cast in Thursday’s referendum favoured retaining the National Resistance Movement as the country’s political system, as opposed to returning to a multiparty system.

Voter turnout had been 44,9 percent of the 9,6 million registered voters.

The final, official results will be announced on Sunday.

“I am happy that there has been collaboration among all groups and people during the elections,” said commission chairperson Aziz Kasujja. “The votes which have so far not been received are from areas like the north where people voted late because of problems there.”

In one county in northern Uganda – where rebels are active – only 11 percent of registered voters participated. Such a figure could give advocates of multiparty politics reason to claim victory.

Traditional political parties, allowed to exist in name only, had called for a boycott of the vote. But it wasn’t clear whether the boycott, rainy weather or simply a lack of interest was responsible for the low turnout.

Political parties – which cannot campaign, raise funds or field candidates on party colours – have argued that basic political rights should never have been restricted when Museveni came to power in 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war.

Museveni blames political parties for creating the religious and ethnic divisions that plunged Uganda into chaos from the mid-1970s until he assumed power. He was elected president in 1996. – Sapa-AP

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