NO SURPRISE: INCUMBENT CLAIMS UGANDAN ELECTION
--Miffed opposition says election unfair; No demonstrations reported yet
5:00PM SUNDAY--President Yoweri Museveni has sailed to victory in Uganda with 68% of the votes, besting his closest rival Kizza Besigye who nabbed 26% of the vote.
The opposition is claiming, loudly, that the election was not free or fair, and included pre-marked ballots, names missing from voters’ registers, and stuffed ballot boxes. However, an election observation team from the Commonwealth Nations told NTV that though “the playing field was not level” and there was “too much commercialism”, the process was “largely transparent”. A Great Lakes Region observer team labeled the elections “free and fair”, though they criticized the slow pace that results were released. (Daily Monitor newspaper).
On Facebook, one anonymous user, Youthsuganda Rise Up, called for a peaceful anti-election demonstration today at 10am at Constitution Square. I have found no evidence on Facebook or Twitter or on TV or radio that this demonstration took place. The online call for demonstrations was met with some support, while others labeled any protest effort “ludicrous” and “premature”. One critic wrote, “Why don’t you go to Bahrain? I can buy you a ticket.” Youthsuganda Rise Up responded, “If you can’t overcome your fear, stay and home and pray…We will welcome your support when you overcome your fear.” At presstime, Youthsuganda Rise Up’s Facebook page had 61 supporters.
Meanwhile, the Daily Monitor’s website reported that loudspeaker trucks traversed Kampala today exhorting Museveni supporters to gather at Constitution Square to celebrate the president’s victory. No word yet on whether the rally materialized.
On Mr. Besigye’s Facebook page, his supporters lamented their candidate’s demise. One wrote, “Just do like Egyptians and Tunisians otherwise the old man (Museveni) will never leave power trust me. Here he goes again more five years.” Another said, “The old man has shown Uganda that u can't (beat) him thru election coz in 2006 he used violence and now he has used a lot of bribes to people so we need to do something.” One depressed Facebooker wrote, “Is my vote wasted? Am tired. I may go out of this country and be in exile.”
Kampala remains a bit calmer than normal today, although on a long walk today we observed much more hustle and bustle than yesterday. Unless protests materialize, things should be pretty much back to normal tomorrow.
9:00AM SUNDAY--Not that there was ever any mystery, but the latest provisional results from 95% of all districts show a resounding win for President Museveni. The latest tally has him with 68% of the vote, down a few percentage points from yesterday. Final results are expected later today.
(Photo--The army deploys in Kampala, where they've established a strong presence. Pix from The Daily Monitor)
The question now is, will the Ugandan people protest these results, which have been widely criticized as unfair and fixed? Museveni’s top challenger Kizza Besigye said at a press conference yesterday, "We've lost faith in the courts, people can protest. You've seen protests remove dictators elsewhere in the world.” Meanwhile, Museveni threatened to arrest Besigye if he encourages protests. He said demonstrators will be "bundled" into the courts and jail. "Revolt? Let him try, let him try, because the hour is here now, and then he will know what it means to revolt," Museveni told reporters on Friday. (Reuters press agency)
The battle lines are drawn, but will the people respond? I’ve been scanning Twitter (#ugandavotes) for signs of a popular uprising. I’ve seen a half dozen messages mentioning Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain, and a half dozen more messages including the term “people power”. Another tweet says, “I dreamt we could fit on city square.”
You be the judge as to whether 15 tweets are indicative of impending protests against the elections and government. (Note—I have searched, unsuccessfully, for any real Facebook-based Uganda protest movement. I found a page called “Museveni must go”, but it has only 200 members and has been updated only once in 2011).
Still no reports of media induced or exacerbated violence related to the election. Also, Kampala remains calm, quiet.