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EU, Opposition Say Ugandan Election Biased Toward President Museveni

Leaders of Uganda's main opposition party and European Union observers are saying the Ugandan election was biased toward the ruling party and its presidential candidate, President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking to extend his 20-year tenure in office. It is Uganda's first multi-party election in a quarter-century.

With less than 10 percent of Uganda's 19,000 polling stations reporting their results, the country's electoral commission announced Friday that the President had a strong lead with 58 percent of the votes compared to 37 percent for his main challenger, Kizza Besigye.

The announcement sparked outrage from Mr. Besigye's party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), which blasted the commission for what it says is selective sampling of poll results favoring Mr. Museveni. Electoral Commission officials deny serious problems with the vote.

FDC officials say they have carried out their own exit poll in 33 randomly selected districts across the country, with about 500,000 people surveyed. In their poll, Mr. Besigye edges just ahead with 49.7 percent to 47.5 for Mr. Museveni.

Rubaramira Ruranga is an election director for FDC. Speaking at a hastily called press conference Friday in the front yard of Mr. Besigye's residence, Ruranga accused the electoral commission of trying to lay the groundwork for announcing a victory for Mr. Museveni.

"Their point is to manipulate the minds of people and put people at attention," he said, "and maybe to prepare them to probably accept any other results which may be made although they may not be necessarily correct."

The FDC rattled off a list of grievances with Thursday's election, including unsealed ballot boxes, cases of bribery and repeat voting, and intimidation of voters.

Many of their grievances were backed by the European Union's election observation mission, which had 200 monitors fanned out across the country.

Many EU observers found similar irregularities. The EU mission officials also accused the ruling party of stacking the deck in their favor in the election. Mr. Museveni and his ruling party enjoyed substantial advantages over their opponents, including the use of state resources such as government cars, personnel and overwhelming coverage in state-owned television and radio, the EU's monitoring mission officials are saying.

Uganda's electoral commission is expected to announce final poll results late Saturday.