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Ugandan Opposition Slams Court Ruling on 2000 Referendum - 2004-09-03

An opposition party in Uganda Friday harshly criticized a high court ruling upholding the results of a referendum rejecting a multi-party political system.

The Supreme Court Thursday validated the results of a referendum held in 2000 in which the government had asked voters whether they wanted to adopt a multi-party political system or stay with the one-party government, commonly known as The Movement. A majority of the voters opted for a one-party system.

But the high court also ruled that the law on which the referendum was based is unconstitutional.

The leader of the Democratic Party, Kasiano Wadri, says he disagrees with the high court's logic in supporting the referendum but not the law on which it was based.

"So if the basis of conducting this referendum was the law, and the law was invalid, it therefore goes without saying that even the [referendum] act itself was invalid," said Kasiano Wadri. "But I think they were more interested in protecting stability rather than the law."

Uganda has been under increasing pressure from international donors to adopt a multi-party system.

But under current law, political parties are allowed to exist, but are prohibited from running in elections. President Museveni, who took power in 1986 and held it ever since, has promised to restore multi-party politics to Uganda in 2006.

Political parties and critics of The Movement, earlier this year, won a court judgment declaring the 2000 referendum invalid on procedural grounds.

But President Museveni appealed the decision, and on Thursday the high court reversed the earlier ruling.

Presidential spokesman Francis Ekomoloit told VOA in June that the procedural flaws were not serious enough to justify the invalidation of the referendum.

"On the face of it, it would appear that the judges, or at least some of them, became over-zealous, and I think the state feels it has a case in the appeal," he said.

The government has argued it is up to the people to decide whether Uganda should have a multi-party political system.