A coalition of political parties in Uganda has announced it will field a single candidate in the 2006 presidential elections.

An official with Uganda's Democratic Party, Kasiano Wadri, says his party and six others are in the process of forming a coalition to present a unified platform and candidate before elections in two years time.

Mr. Wadri said the seven parties have been working together for the past two years and share ideas and goals. He said they have only now decided to announce a merger into a united political front.

The coalition's aim, Mr. Wadri said, is not just to defeat the ruling Movement Party, headed by current President Yoweri Museveni. "Right now, we are thinking in terms of having joint planning, joint programming, and joint implementation of our activities. This is not purely just only to oust the Museveni regime," he said.

If elected, he said, the coalition candidate would make the country's reputation and economy the top priorities. "For the last 18 years, Uganda, unfortunately, has been judged as a war-mongering country," said Mr. Wadri. "We are in no way in good neighborliness with all these countries that surround us in the Great Lakes region. And it will be our hope to cleanse our image internationally. Our second issue will be to work on the economic front. Poverty is still very, very high among the ordinary people."

President Museveni took power in 1986 and has been in office ever since. Uganda is technically a "no-party" state, but, because of national and international pressure, the government has made tentative moves within the past few years to transform into a multi-party political system.

Its 2002 Political Parties and Organizations Act, however, may stand in the way. It imposes strict limitations on how and where political parties can establish offices and subjects them to punitive registration requirements.

Last year, despite a constitutional court ruling that the act is illegal, the government declared most opposition parties were illegal because they failed to re-register.

Under Uganda's constitution, President Museveni is not eligible to run for a third term. But his Movement Party is reportedly gearing up to stage a public referendum to amend the constitution so he can stay in office beyond two terms.