Uganda - Political parties

The Uganda People's Congress (UPC), founded in 1959, was the leading political party of the pre-Amin era. At the time of independence it formed a ruling coalition with the Kabaka Yekka (The King Only), which drew its support from the Baganda. The opposition party was the Democratic Party (DP), founded in 1953.

The marriage of convenience between the UPC and the Kabaka Yekka deteriorated, and in February 1966, Prime Minister Milton Obote, who had been the head of the UPC, suspended the constitution, deposed the president and vice president, and began a move to power, which culminated in the proclamation of the Republic of Uganda under a new constitution adopted in September 1967. The political situation under Obote continued to deteriorate, and after an attempt on his life, Obote's government banned the opposition parties and arrested 10 of their leaders. Uganda was subsequently declared a one-party state in 1969, the UPC remaining as the only legal party. After the military overthrow of the Obote government on 25 January 1971, Maj. Gen. Amin outlawed all political parties.

After the overthrow of Amin, four political parties took part in the parliamentary elections held in December 1980. The UPC was declared to have won 74 seats in the National Assembly; the DP, 51; the Uganda Patriotic Movement, 1; and the Conservative Party, 0. These parties, as well as Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement and the Uganda Freedom Movement, were represented in the cabinet appointed in 1986. The government ordered all parties to suspend active operations, however, and mandated that elections would not be held before 1989.

By 1991, however, party activity, although banned, began to increase. Top officials of the DP and UPC were arrested in January 1992. Museveni insisted that no party activity could precede the new constitution. In August, the DP and UPC held a joint press conference to denounce parliament's formalization of the ban. President Museveni declared that parties were not allowed to participate in either the presidential election or the Parliamentary elections held in May and June of 1996, respectively. Nonetheless, 156 of the 276 members of the Parliament elected in 1996 were considered to be supporters of General Museveni. The UPC, DP, and CP remained the most important opposition parties.

In June 2000, the no-party system was subjected to a national referendum. Despite accusations of vote rigging and manipulation by the opposition, Ugandans approved it. They also re-elected Museveni to a second five-year term in March 2001. In the 303-member National Assembly, 214 seats were directly elected by popular vote, and 81 were nominated by legally established special interest groups including women (56), army (10), disabled (5), youth (5), labor (5), and ex officio members (8). Campaigning by party was not allowed.

In May 2003, the National Executive Committee recommended that subject to another national referendum in 2004, parties be free to operate. Nonetheless, the United States was particularly concerned about the lack of political space and freedom of speech that Museveni's 'Movement' has allowed other political forces. The United States also expressed its disapproval of any attempt by Museveni or his Movement to tamper with the constitution to legalize a run for a third term.

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