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Poll Gives Museveni Sizable Edge in Ugandan Presidential Race

FILE - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni gestures to delegates attending the Burundi peace talks at Entebbe State House, east of Kampala, Dec. 28, 2015.
FILE - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni gestures to delegates attending the Burundi peace talks at Entebbe State House, east of Kampala, Dec. 28, 2015.

A new poll shows incumbent Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of the ruling National Resistance Movement likely to win the February 18 presidential election with 51 percent of the vote.

Kizza Besigye of the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change came in second with 32 percent, while independent candidate Patrick Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister, was third with 12 percent.

The Research World International poll, conducted January 15-19, surveyed 2,685 prospective voters in 89 districts across Uganda. Patrick Wakida, Research World's chief executive officer, said the poll was a true reflection of the support for candidates ahead of presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

“This poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 [percentage points], which is attributed to a number of factors. There is quite a lot of fear among the voters and suspicion,” Wakida said.

“Selection of respondents remains random and distribution of samples to different sub-regions was proportional to the population," he said, adding that most of those interviewed were illiterate or semiliterate, "because that is the structure of our population."

Challenger Besigye has launched a “defiance” campaign as part of an effort to put pressure on Museveni ahead of the election. Supporters said the defiance campaign would help the opposition defeat the ruling party in both presidential and parliamentary elections.

Wakida said the defiance campaign appeared to be working. When poll respondents were asked whether they wanted Museveni to stay or go, 46 percent said they were in favor of change in the upcoming elections while 49 percent said Museveni should be retained as president.

Publicity stunt

Opposition supporters rejected the polling results, saying the survey was a publicity stunt orchestrated and funded by the government because of the backlash Museveni got after skipping last week’s presidential debate. They said the survey was yet another attempt to portray Museveni as popular despite what they said was his failed leadership that has led to the prevailing poor economic conditions.

“If I were his handlers, never would I have allowed him to go for the presidential debate because he would have been the focus of the debate," Wakida said. "He is the incumbent who has been in government for the last 30 years, so probably ... he feared to be made the subject of discussions. ... He would have made no significant increase in his supporters" had he participated.

“I have never met that guy [Museveni]. We have never been at the same place, so my conclusion is I don’t know him. And anybody who says [he funded us] loses the point.”

Wakida also said organizers of the debate missed a majority of the population because the debate was conducted in English instead of one of the local languages.

“People who have completed university education in this country are not more than 14 percent of the population," Wakida said.