Uganda's longstanding leader, Yoweri Museveni, has won a fourth elected term, taking 68 per cent of the vote to the 26 per cent scored by his nearest challenger, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change. Including the 10 years the incumbent had as President after overthrowing Milton Obote in 1986, this will take his unbroken time in office to over 30 years. The result is consistent with prior polls, but the conduct of the election was problematic in several ways. The country has no independent election commission, and potential donors to opposition parties were discouraged by a climate of intimidation. Private radio stations refused some candidates airtime that had been paid for in advance, and the Commonwealth Observer Group has expressed concerns about the use of money and official positions for campaign purposes. In the last 15 years, furthermore, corruption has spread; thousands of lives have been lost in a partially successful war against the Lord's Resistance Army, with both sides using child soldiers; and one in three of the 34 million population still lives on $1.25 or less a day. The Ugandan army have also been accused of systematic brutality and of plundering resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The President himself has shown no embarrassment over other controversies too. In 2006, he abolished the constitutional two-term limit. Elections within his own party, the National Resistance Movement, have been marred by many allegations of vote-rigging.
Rural voters, however, backed Mr. Museveni strongly on the day, which suggests that to them his political contribution to rural stability outweighs the fact that for other voters he has long lost the shine of his early achievements. Those included rebuilding a country with bitter memories of Idi Amin's dictatorship and the two decades of civil war that followed it. Uganda also led Africa in addressing the AIDS epidemic. The defeated Mr. Besigye, the President's former personal physician, says he will not challenge the results in court, and his followers have not responded to his call for public protests. A lot is at stake, not least because the recent discovery of an estimated one billion barrels of oil in the Lake Albert Basin promises any government in Kampala greater international leverage. Mr. Museveni is relatively free from accusations of personal enrichment, and Ugandan voters have shown a degree of practical judgment throughout the election, both in keeping the polls peaceful and in making their decisions at the ballot booths.