Country Report Uganda March 2011

Outlook for 2011-12: Election watch

Mr Museveni and the NRM, who have ruled Uganda since fighting their way to power in 1986, won resounding victories in the presidential and parliamentary elections on February 18th, extending their hegemony for another five years. The emphatic nature of the result owes itself to several factors; large financial and logistical advantages provided by access to state resources, a lacklustre campaign from a divided and squabbling opposition, savvy policy reforms, which alleviated pressure that was building from regional concerns, and low inflation over the past year, which has seen an improvement in living standards. Mr Museveni won 67% of the vote in the presidential election and the NRM was on course for an improved majority in parliament at the time of going to press. The ruling party is likely to score a similar win in municipal elections in early March, extending its domination to every area of the public administration.

The opposition will have been bitterly disappointed with its poor showing, and the most pressing question facing it is whether it can achieve anything by protesting against the results. The electoral observers have called the election process generally free and fair, although they have acknowledged the vast advantages of incumbency afforded to the NRM. There does not appear to be popular support for protests, and any attempt to challenge the results is likely to fizzle out. The opposition will now enter a prolonged period of soul-searching as it attempts to rebuild itself in order to provide a more coherent challenge at the next polls, in 2016. It may need to find a new presidential candidate to coalesce around or try to coax someone from the ruling NRM; the strongest opposition contender, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, failed to beat Mr Museveni for the third time in a row and his political career looks as though it has peaked.

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