SUPPORTERS of the ruling National Resistance Movement and the opposition alike are upbeat of victory as the country goes to the polls to elect its next head of state and members of Parliament.
Both camps anticipate a tight race in the poll that opens at 8:00 am on Friday.
Incumbent Yoweri Museveni, on the NRM ticket is vying for a fourth term in office while the key opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye is making a third attempt to wrestle power from Museveni.
In total, eight candidates are vying for the presidency. Other than Museveni and Besigye, Nobert Mao of the Democratic Party (DP) and Olara Otunnu of the Uganda People Congress (UPC) are also in the race as are Abed Bwanika of the Peopleâ€™s Development Partyâ€™s (PDP), Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, a former local government Minister on the Peopleâ€™s Progress Party (PPP) ticket, Beti Kamya of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) and Samuel Lubega who is an independent candidate.
A record turnout is expected in the election. According to the Electoral Commission, there are 13.9 million registered voters and polling centres open at 7:00am for voting which will last till 5:00pm at 23,968 polling stations throughout the country.
Ugandaâ€™s population is estimated at 32 million.
The NRM party claims to have at least 7.9 registered members who are all eligible voters. Its candidate Museveni at a news conference at State House Entebbe on Wednesday predicted a land slide victory for his in todayâ€™s polls.
He said, â€œWe (NRM) have been winning elections when we had wars within the country. Now that the whole country is peaceful, we shall win with a big margin.â€
Museveniâ€™s re-election campaign has hinged on transforming Uganda into a middle class economy.
The closing campaign rallies of the front runners, Museveni, Besigye and Mao were awash with hundreds of fans to express their supporters.
Much of the weight of expectation for the opposition rests on the IPC flag bearer Besigye who making a third attempt at the presidency.
Besigye has expressed confidence that this time round victory is on his side. On the previous two occasions in 2001, 2006 he lost to Museveni and unsuccessfully contested both results in the Supreme Court.
â€œMake sure you turn up on the polling day and determine the political destiny of your country,â€ Besigye told his last rally yesterday. He appealed to his supporters not to disrupt the voting process.
The Electoral Commission and the Police have called upon voters to be peaceful, observe electoral laws and follow the guidance of the polling officials at their respective polling stations. Security operatives have been deployed and are keeping watch to guard against disruptions in the polls, violence and ensure a peaceful process.
The media has also been warned against announcing unofficial elections results and inciting violence
According to the Constitution and electoral statutes, the Electoral Commission has the sole mandate of conducting election and announcing the results. The body has threatened legal action against announcement of unofficial results.
According to the Constitution, a candidate must score over 50 per cent of the valid votes cast to be declared a winner.
All registered Ugandans of 18 years and above who appear on the national photo-bearing register are allowed to vote.
The presidential campaign which kicked off on October 28 last year, ended on February 16. The aspiring candidates had traversed the countryâ€™s 112 districts in search for support.
President Museveni will cast his vote from his home district of Kiruhura, while the main opposition frontrunner Besigye will vote from Rukungiri district.
Mao will vote from him home area of Gulu, while other candidates including Otunnu will vote from their respective polling stations in Kampala and Wakiso districts.
The Electoral Commission has spelt out the procedure for the declaration of results.
Although results at the polling station will be announced for all categories by the presiding officer, the presidential results will only be declared by the EC chairperson at the National Tally Centre in Kampala within 48 hours from Friday. Parliamentary results will be declared at the districts.
Ugandans in the diaspora, the prisoners, the sick in hospital will miss the voting because no arrangements have been made for them.
These are the second multiparty polls since Ugandans voted for a return to multipartyism in the 2005 referendum.
The NRM has fielded 364 MP candidates with at least a contender for every constituency and several contestants for special interest groups. FDC has 288 aspirant, UPC has 135 while DP has 120 aspirants. UFA has 66 candidates; PDP has 18 and 33 are contesting on the PPP ticket.
While the opposition has more nominated candidates than it did in the last election, with 660 compared to 355 in 2006, it is not clear whether they will capture a majority of the seats in the House.
The Parliament of Uganda, comprises 215 Constituency representatives, 79 district woman representatives, 10 Uganda People's Defence Forces representatives, 5 representatives of the Youth, 5 representatives of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), 5 representatives of workers, and 13 Ex-officio members.
NRM dominated the outgoing parliament whose term ends in May, with 221 seats. The main opposition party FDC held 38 seats, UPC had 10 while JEEMA and the Conservative party each had one seat. There were 38 independent candidates with a majority of them NRM leaning.
Ugandaâ€™s past elections
The 1962 elections: Uganda held its first elections on 25th April 1962. Post independence elections scheduled for 1967 were postponed by Milton Obote because of the crisis of 1966 pitting the government against Buganda kingdom. Elections which were due in 1971 were canceled by Idi Amin when he took power through a military coup.
The 1980 general elections: The Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), an interim government formed when the Tanzanian army overthrew Aminâ€™s military regime in 1979, organized the first national elections since independence. These elections were held in December 1980.
The major political parties were Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and the Democratic Party (DP). The Uganda Patriotic Movement, which was new on the political scene, was led by Yoweri Museveni. The results of the elections held in December of that year were contested and Museveni who launched a guerrilla war citing poll rigging.
The 1996 elections: This was the first direct presidential election in Uganda since 1962. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni emerged winner to serve a 5-year term. Museveni defeated his arch rival Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, who had served as his Foreign minister.
The 2001 elections: During this election, the sitting President Museveni for the first time got a challenger from within the NRM party. Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye was a candidate of the Reform Agenda. Besigye was a former National Political Commissar in NRM and President Museveniâ€™s personal doctor during the bush war. Both 1996 and 2001 elections were held under the Movement no-party system.
The 2006 elections: This took place on February 23. It was the first multiparty election since Museveni came to power in 1986. Museveni won the polls and Besigye came second.
The 2011 elections: Second multiparty polls in 30 years. The verdict is expected this weekend.
Reported by Vision team