The results of Uganda’s days old election may have surprised no-one but for a third time in a row the incumbent President’s victory has raised questions over what should be defined as election ‘rigging’. The rise of Museveni’s support to 68% of the poll after falling into the 50’s in recent elections has prompted allegations of a fraudulent ballot particularly from the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besiyge, whose own share of the vote fell to just 26%. The issue of rigging in Uganda however, is a particularly murky issue. The countries electoral commission itself has acknowledged the existence of problems in the election process but has maintained that levels of corruption were small enough not to have affected the overall outcome of the vote. Similarly, international observers have frequently questioned local level electoral fraud often accompanied by the presence of government troops or police. Despite this however, the international community has offered little support for Ugandan opposition parties and on the whole it has tended to be assumed that despite obvious rigging in some areas the assessment of the Uganda Electoral Commission has been largely correct. The problem here partly stems from Museveni’s undoubted continued popularity among particularly rural sections of the population where his maintenance of stability within the country trumps all other concerns. Similarly, despite high levels of corruption within the regime, the President himself does not appear to have siphoned off large portions of the country’s wealth in the manner of many of his long-standing contemporaries. Moreover, the increased share of opposition votes at previous elections indicates an unwillingness perhaps to rig on a significant and open scale.
However, opposition allegations have focused this time not on ballot rigging but on a fraudulent result based on the absence of a ‘level playing field’. Besigye, supported by the Commonwealth Observer Group which monitored the elections, accused Museveni of using tax payers money for his campaign and bribing electoral officials, candidates and voters. Such accusations are significantly more difficult to prove. And the lack of street protests promised by Besigye in the wake of his defeat suggests that his claims will not be verified one way or another by Ugandan’s themselves, many of whom probably expected, even if they did not desire, the outcome. Museveni will reach his thirty years in power.