KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, seeking a fourth term in office, will arrest his main opponent Kizza Besigye if he carries out his own vote count and announces the results, the presidency said on Wednesday.
Besigye said in October his party planned to hold a parallel count of the presidential election expected on February 18, to put pressure on the government and the president to speed up electoral reforms.
Besigye, leading an opposition coalition called Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC), plans to have agents at every polling station who will send results to a tallying centre.
He reiterated on December 6 while campaigning in eastern Uganda that he would announce his own results shortly after the polls close, local media reported.
The presidency said in a statement that Museveni, speaking to media on Tuesday in Jinja, eastern Uganda, had warned Besigye not to declare his own election results.
“The president said Besigye should not think this is Ivory Coast or Kenya. He warned that Besigye will be taking a short-cut to Luzira (maximum security prison). Museveni said even he himself cannot declare his own election results.”
Museveni has said the electoral commission is the only institution authorised to declare presidential election results.
Museveni, in power since 1986, is facing a fierce challenge from Besigye, who has made deep inroads in the rural areas that are the president’s traditional support base.
Besigye says he was cheated of victory in the last two elections, in 2001 and 2006, citing rulings by the supreme court that both polls had been marred by massive rigging and intimidation of voters by the army.
Besigye was arrested in November 2005 on rape and treason charges, shortly before he was nominated for the February 2006 elections, setting off days of civil unrest that paralysed the capital and spread across the country. He was later cleared of both charges.
IPC spokesman Margaret Wokuri told Reuters Museveni would have no legal basis to arrest Besigye.
“What we’ll be doing, and which our candidate has emphasized, is that we’ll be announcing provisional results as relayed to us by our agents at all polling centres, and there’s no law that bars us from doing that,” she said.
Political analysts say Museveni fears that allowing Besigye to announce his own results could ignite protests if the numbers differ greatly from those of the electoral body.