KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) – Ugandans voted overwhelmingly in support of their country’s return to a multiparty system, which was banned for 19 years by a president who argued that he needed to keep tribal divisions in check.

According to final results announced Saturday by the Electoral Commission chairman, 92.5 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of allowing multiparty politics after nearly two decades of President Yoweri Museveni’s so-called “no-party democracy” in the East African nation.

About 47 percent of Uganda’s 8.5 million registered voters participated in the referendum Thursday, said the chairman, Badru Kiggundu. No minimum turnout was required to make the referendum valid.

Museveni had argued in the past that the no-party system was the antidote to tribal divisions that led to years of civil strife in Uganda. This year, he changed positions and campaigned for the “yes” vote.

Opposition groups had asked voters to boycott the $12 million referendum, insisting it was a waste of money and the reforms should be instituted without a vote.

Uganda’s constitution stipulates a referendum must be held for the country to change to a multiparty system. Thursday’s referendum reverses a vote in a 2000 referendum in favor of retaining the no-party system.

A local observer group that monitored the referendum said voters cast their ballots peacefully and without intimidation, but that many did not understand the choices before them.

“Most people (our) observers spoke to said they did not understand what the referendum was being held for,” the Democracy Monitoring Group said in a statement Saturday. “Others said that since parties were allowed to register, there was no reason to go to a referendum to decide if they should exist.”

More than 300 foreign and local observers monitored the referendum.

This year, Britain and Norway froze a portion of their aid to Uganda because they said Museveni’s administration has mishandled the transition to a multiparty system, stifled opposition politics and faltered in fighting corruption.

Under the no-party system, political parties were allowed to exist, but their activities were severely restricted and candidates for office must run as individuals.

The National Resistance Movement – to which every Ugandan belongs and which Museveni claims is not a party – has run the country since Museveni came to power in 1986.

AP-ES-07-30-05 2201EDT


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