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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Ugandans ignore multi-party vote
Lone voter
Many Ugandans are said to be confused by the process
There has been a low turn-out in Uganda for a referendum on whether to return to multi-party politics for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Reports from the capital say few people have heeded President Yoweri Museveni's appeal for a big vote in favour.

The opposition has called for a boycott, dismissing the referendum as a waste of time and money.

A BBC correspondent in Kampala says a lack of planning and voter education has left many Ugandans confused.

Five years ago, in a similar referendum, Ugandans chose to keep the restrictions on the parties - imposed in order to end years of communal and political violence.

Trickle of voters

Correspondents say this is a curious poll, with Mr Museveni, who has championed the idea of non-party politics since he came to power travelling the country seeking support for a return to multi-partyism.

The opposition, which says political pluralism has already been established, is demanding a boycott.

REFERENDUM QUESTION
"Do you agree to open up the political space to allow those who wish to join different organisations/ parties to do so to compete for political power?"

The BBC's Will Ross in Kampala says there has just been a trickle of voters to polling stations.

With both the government and the opposition parties saying they are in favour of multi-party politics, our correspondent says that many people question the need for a referendum which cost $13m (7.4m).

"I don't see any use in voting since everyone accepts the same issue," said Chigongo as he walked past a polling station.

One man, Emmanuel, however, told the BBC that he was voting because he thought Uganda was now ready for multi-party elections after the no-party "Movement" system had stabilised politics.

"I believe that Ugandans have now matured in their political thinking," he said.

The question being asked is: "Do you agree to open up the political space to allow those who wish to join different organisations/ parties to do so to compete for political power?"

Donor fears

For years, President Yoweri Museveni supported a ban on political parties, blaming them for Uganda's violent past.

Yoweri Museveni
Critics accuse Museveni of seeking to be "president for life"
But both internal and international pressure for more democracy seem to have forced his hand and the president now says he supports a return to multi-party politics.

However, donors have recently reduced aid to Uganda because of moves to drop a constitutional limit on presidential terms.

Mr Museveni is nearing the end of his second term but now looks set to be allowed to stand in next year's polls.

Our correspondent says a lack of time and civic education has left many Ugandan voters confused and clearly not voting from an informed position.

Given the air of confusion, a vote against a return to multi-party politics cannot be entirely ruled out, he says.

Polls are set to close at 1700 (1400 GMT), with the first results expected on Friday.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See why the Ugandans have been against multi-party politics in the past



SEE ALSO:
Ugandan referendum boycott call
27 Jul 05 |  Africa
UK aid cut pressures Uganda
29 Apr 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Uganda
09 Apr 05 |  Country profiles


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