KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will contest next year’s presidential poll, trying to extend a presidency that started in 1986, a statement from his office said on Sunday.
He will also seek election as chairman of his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party at its national conference in mid-September, the statement added.
It quoted Museveni as asking a crowd in western Uganda to support him in both races, confirming widespread expectations in the east African country, which discovered commercial oil deposits in 2006, that he would stand.
“People with disabilities are embracing my candidature for chairman and Presidential flag bearer for NRM, I put in my nomination forms, so I can now ask for your support,” he said.
One of the longest-serving presidents in Africa, Museveni rose to the top of Ugandan politics when his then National Resistance Army (NRA) insurgents seized power from a short-lived military junta.
The early years of his presidency drew wide praise from the west and effusive support from Ugandans for its respect for the civilian population, prudent and liberal economic management and commitment to the rule of law.
In the past decade, support among the people has begun to ebb and relations with the west have frayed on mounting accusations by the opposition and human rights observers that his leadership has turned despotic and corrupt.
Political analysts say Museveni — expected to win the party leadership contest easily — will probably face off against Kizza Besigye, who is expected to be picked by a coalition of opposition parties, the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC).
Besigye, who fought and lost elections against Museveni in 2001 and 2006, is the leader of the biggest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
Museveni’s victories in both polls were marred by accusations of widespread rigging and violence.
A unified opposition, analysts say, will give Museveni the most formidable challenge yet and is likely to send the poll into a run-off.
“Going by the trend of Museveni’s electoral fortunes, he got 76 percent in 1996, 69 percent in 2001 and 57 percent in 2006, there’s a real big chance that he will get anywhere between 45 and 50 percent in 2011,” said political analyst Bernard Tabaire.
“That’s not enough because to win outright, the constitution requires you to have above 50 percent.”
Museveni defended his years in power, denounced by critics as evidence of a life-presidency ambition, saying it was necessary to keep Uganda’s development on track.
“Some elements of the historical team need to be kept in leadership so as to provide the much needed expertise and experience to propel the country ahead,” he said in the statement.