Uganda's Museveni takes commanding election lead as rival alleges fraud

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Long-time leader Yoweri Museveni took a commanding lead in Uganda’s presidential election with almost half the votes counted on Friday though his main rival Bobi Wine said there had been widespread fraud.

With 49.1% of votes from Thursday’s ballot counted, Museveni had won 3.9 million, or 62.7%, while main opposition candidate Wine had 1.4 million votes (29.3%), the electoral commission said just after 5 p.m. (1400 GMT).

The next batch of results was due to be released at 9 p.m. when a nationwide curfew in place since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic kicks in.

The normally bustling capital Kampala was quiet on Friday with many shops closed for a public holiday following Thursday’s poll. Soldiers patrolled on foot in the rain in a suburb visited by Reuters in the morning.

The election campaign was marred by deadly crackdowns by security forces on opposition candidates and their supporters.

Wine, a singer-turned-lawmaker who has galvanized young Ugandans with calls for political change, told a news conference he had video proof of voting fraud.

“I am very confident that we defeated the dictator by far,” he said.

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“We are putting every legal, every constitutional and every non-violent option on the table,” Wine told Reuters. “I will be happy to share the videos of all the fraud and irregularities as soon as the internet is restored.”

His claims have not been independently verified by Reuters. The United States and European Union did not deploy teams of observers for this election, though the African Union and East African Community did.

Neither the AU or EAC observer teams responded to requests for comment about possible irregularities.

‘RESULTS WILL COME’

Electoral Commission Chairman Simon Byabakama told a news conference that under Ugandan law, the burden of proof rested with Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi.

“The onus is upon candidate Kyagulanyi to show or to prove in what context and how the results are rigged,” he said.

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Museveni, who has led the East African country with a population of nearly 46 million for 34 years, was expected to hold a news conference at 8 p.m., according to NTV Uganda.

More than a dozen East African non-governmental organisations called for the release of 26 Ugandan election observers arrested on Thursday over allegations they were creating an illegal parallel tallying centre.

They said those arrested were civil society members carrying out the legitimate duty of collecting information at a time when the authorities had shut down many forms of communications.

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On Wednesday, the government ordered an internet blackout until further notice, a day after banning all social media and messaging apps.

Wine and his supporters used Facebook to relay live coverage of his campaigns and news conferences after he said many media outlets had declined to host him.

Wine also said in a tweet on Friday that he was unable to make or receive calls on his phone, saying this was part of an effort to prevent him from communicating.

The electoral commission’s Byabakama assured Ugandans on Thursday that results were arriving at the national tallying centre, despite the internet blackout.

“We are not using local internet to transmit our results, we are using our own system,” he said, without giving details. “Don’t worry, results will come.”

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