Uganda postpones mayoral and local polls after fraud

KAMPALA Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:34pm GMT

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda postponed mayoral and local elections in the capital Kampala on Wednesday after the electoral commission said violence had marred voting and that it had found evidence of ballot stuffing.

The opposition said it was a repeat of Friday's flawed presidential election, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa's longest serving leaders, won a fourth term in office. The main opposition coalition called that poll a sham.

"The electoral commission hereby informs candidates, their agents, voters that the polling process has been postponed," deputy chairman of the electoral commission Joseph Biribonwa told reporters.

He said there was violence, evidence of ballot-stuffing and that presiding officers were flouting poll procedures.

Local television showed voters and officials displaying pre-ticked ballots and stuffed boxes in several polling stations, all marked in favour of ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) mayoral candidate, Peter Sematimba.

NRM officials were not immediately available for comment.

A Reuters witness saw police intervene as fighting broke out at several polling stations in Kampala.

Several foreign embassies in Kampala sent messages to their citizens to warn them that the collapse of the mayoral and local elections made violent protests more likely.

Analysts had expected a tight race between Sematimba and opposition candidate Erias Lukwago and some said Lukwago was pulling ahead.

"This is exactly what went across the country during the presidential and parliamentary race," said Margaret Wokuri, spokeswoman for the opposition Inter-Party Cooperation coalition.

"They are postponing the problem unless they go back to the drawing board and follow proper procedures. People are really getting angry now."

Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, won 68 percent of the presidential vote against the leader of the Inter-Party Cooperation coalition Kizza Besigye's 26 percent.

Besigye rejected the election, saying huge sums had been used to buy votes and to bribe polling agents, parliamentary candidates and electoral officials. He also complained of widespread vote-rigging and intimidation.

Besigye, 54, has repeatedly said an unfair poll could trigger an Egypt-style revolt. He says he is meeting other political leaders to decide on his next move but that he will not appeal to the country's Supreme Court.

(Additional reporting by Elias Biryaberema; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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