, KAMPALA, Jan 12 – Uganda\’s main opposition group has threatened to pull out of next month\’s general elections over rigging suspicions.
"If it is clear to us that this election is a completely hopeless process, we could still pull out at any time," presidential candidate Kizza Besigye said Monday while recording a televised electoral debate.
Besigye, who is due to challenge President Yoweri Museveni on February 18 on behalf of the four-party Inter-party Cooperation (IPC), went on to clarify that by "hopeless" he meant "fraudulent".
Besigye lost to Museveni, in power since 1986, in the 2001 and 2006 elections, although Ugandan courts found evidence of rigging in both votes.
IPC spokeswoman Margaret Wokuri told AFP Tuesday "there is still time for the IPC to pull out," adding that Besigye\’s team was still unsatisfied with the electoral commission.
Besigye\’s camp argues that a decision by the electoral commission not to issue cards to all registered voters creates space to tamper with the roll and has filed a court case in protest.
Wokuri added that the IPC wants election officials to crack down on "bribery and intimidation" by ruling party operatives and address "the incompetence of their own staff, which has been previously declared by the courts."
Failure to act on these issues could precipate an IPC pull out, she said.
Speaking to the independent Daily Monitor newspaper last week before departing the country, the European Union\’s outgoing ambassador Vincent de Visscher said Uganda was not on track for a fair vote.
"I note particularly opposition parties still encounter difficulties in campaigning, in holding rallies, from time to time harassment, maybe intimidation, also access to the media," he said.
"I hope that in the coming weeks one can make an effort to ensure the playing field will improve."