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The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"Party politics in Uganda exist in a curious kind of twilight zone"
 real 28k

Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 14:52 GMT
Uganda election fight kicks off
President Museveni
President Museveni has been in power for 14 years
Campaigning has begun in Uganda's presidential election, set for 6 March, in which President Yoweri Museveni faces six opponents.

The president's most prominent opponent is likely to be Kizza Besigye, a doctor who became a guerilla fighter alongside Mr Museveni in the early 1980s.

Mr Besigye has worked with him since, as a government minister, a senior member of the Ugandan army, and as his personal physician.

But now, he says, he is standing against the president because he believes the National Resistance Movement has degenerated into corruption and croney-ism, mistrust and suspicion.

In theory, every Ugandan is a member of the "Movement" and can stand for any public office, but they cannot do so under the banner of any political party.

Political parties are not actually illegal, but they are not allowed to campaign or put up candidates in elections.

Popular appeal

Like President Museveni, Dr Besigye will be campaigning on the basis of the government's and the Movement's past record.

But he is also pledging renewal and reform from within, to withdraw the Ugandan army from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to try to settle internal rebellions by dialogue, not force.

Correspondents suggest he could prove popular with the voters.

When he filed his nomination papers the crowds that turned out to see him and cheer him on were second only to the crowds that came to support President Museveni.

The other candidates are Chapaa Karuhanga, MP Aggrey Awori, University official Kibirige Mayanja, actor Charles Ssenkubuge Siasa, and Francis Bwengye, who leads a breakaway faction of the Democratic Party.

Under the election rules, If no candidate gets at least 50% of the vote there will have to be another round.

No-party system

President Museveni has been in power since 1986, and won 70% of the vote in the last presidential elections in 1996.

His main challenger then, Democratic Party leader Paul Ssemogerere, is not running and has said that he will support Mr Basigye.

Critics describe the Movement system as a thinly-veiled one-party state, but in a referendum last June, voters rejected a multi-party democracy in favour of the existing system.

However, Uganda's aid donors described the referendum as "flawed".

President Museveni has argued that the tribalistic and sectarian nature of parties was to blame for Uganda's past bloodshed under the regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

He believes the no-party system has contributed to the country's economic growth and relative stability.

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