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UGANDA PRESIDENT TAKES BIG LEAD IN RE-ELECTION BID
KAMPALA, Uganda — President Yoweri Museveni appeared to take a commanding early lead on Saturday in the presidential election here, capturing nearly 69 percent of the vote, with about 77 percent of polling sites reporting, a government Web site showed.

His nearest rival, Kizza Besigye, a retired army colonel, was a distant second with about 25 percent of the vote, as of 3 a.m. local time. If the results hold, Mr. Museveni, who has held office for 25 years, would appear to be on his way to another five-year term. Mr. Besigye, running for president for a third time, polled strongly in the cosmopolitan capital of Kampala and in other strongholds, but the president was carrying much of rural Uganda in landslides.

Both Mr. Museveni and Mr. Besigye said that they expected to win the election. Mr. Besigye has threatened to lead Egypt-style protests if he believes the vote was rigged. So far there have been no complaints of widespread fraud, but there were allegations of vote-buying and misappropriation of state funds. “As far as we are concerned, the results do not reflect the desires or aspirations of the people,” said Margaret Wokuri, a communications officer for the Besigye campaign. “An election that has been marred with lots of bribery and intrigue cannot be trusted.”

The voting on Friday was largely peaceful, despite sporadic violence. In the south, a member of Parliament who is running for re-election was part of a mob that beat an opposition campaign officer to death. In the east, a journalist was shot when a candidate’s convoy he was in was attacked. “It’s going on very well,” said Charles Willy, the electoral commission spokesman. “We have had no problems at all.” Mr. Museveni is running for an unprecedented fourth term, after abolishing term limits before elections in 2005. Over the last three elections, his share of the vote has steadily declined, but the preliminary results on Saturday suggested he would make a stronger showing this year. Final results are expected on Sunday.

International watchdogs say this year’s elections, which includes voting for Parliament and local offices, were the most expensive in the country’s history, including lavish campaign rallies and allegations of envelopes stuffed with cash — sometimes as little as 500 Ugandan shillings, or about 20 cents — to buy votes, particularly in the countryside. Opposition politicians and local news media have accused Mr. Museveni’s party of using hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds on their campaigns. If the vote were truly free and fair, says Elliot Green, a Uganda expert at the London School of Economics, Mr. Museveni might win less that 50 percent of the vote, forcing him into a runoff with the second-place finisher. But by Saturday afternoon, that seemed unlikely.

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