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Ugandan MP to Petition for Change Allowing Museveni to Run Again

FILE - Posters in support of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni are seen at a rally in Kisaasi, Feb. 16, 2016. Museveni won the election that month, drawing 60 percent of the vote.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni may have found a way to run for another term, a move long expected by his critics, who accuse him of seeking a lifetime presidency.

A legislator from the ruling party said Thursday that she would petition top party officials to begin the process by which parliament would remove an age limit that now bars Museveni from standing for another term.

Ann Maria Nankabirwa, an MP from the National Resistance Movement, told Reuters she had recently met with constituents who asked her to start the process of removing the age limit from the constitution.

"These are my constituents telling me," Nankabirwa said. "I can't ignore their voices. They want the age limit removed for Museveni to stand again, and I have no choice but to take their petition to the party."

The constitution bars anyone above 75 years of age from standing for president. Museveni, now 71, would be ineligible to seek re-election in 2021, when the next vote is due.

If the constitution is amended and he wins re-election, the move could extend his rule to 40 years.

Petition to committee

Nankabirwa said within a week she would deliver a petition to the National Executive Committee and ask it to begin the procedure for amending the constitution.

The committee is a top body of the ruling party, where major national policy proposals and legislative measures are often first discussed before being introduced in parliament. All legislators from the ruling party are members of the committee.

Museveni was declared the winner of Uganda's last election, in February, with 60 percent of the vote. His main rival, Kizza Besigye, who came second with 35 percent of the vote, said the election's integrity was undermined by rigging, intimidation by security personnel and voter bribery.

Besigye was arrested in May and charged with treason shortly after a video circulated on social media depicting him in a mock swearing-in ceremony.

Museveni was accused of bribing ruling party legislators in 2005 to amend the constitution to remove a two-term limit, although he denies the charge.

"Museveni has an absolute majority in parliament ... these legislators do not have the courage to resist what Museveni wants," said Nicholas Opiyo, a Kampala-based political analyst and human rights lawyer.