The present constitution was promulgated in October 1995, completing a process begun in 1989. It provided that until 2000, elections were to be held under the ‘movement system’ (introduced in 1986), whereby candidates stand as individuals to be elected on personal merit, and not as members of a political party. The ‘movement system’ ended in 2005 when the people voted in a constitutional referendum in favour of introduction of a multiparty political system.
The constitution provides for a unitary republic, an executive President directly elected every five years by universal adult suffrage and Parliament which comprises 375 elected members, 238 directly elected every five years by universal adult suffrage and the rest elected from special interest groups by electoral colleges: women (112 members), the defence forces (ten members), youth (five), disabled people (five) and workers (five). The President appoints the cabinet. Cabinet ministers who are not already members of parliament become ex officio members. Since 2005 there has been no limit on the number of terms a President may serve.
Amid growing support for political pluralism, from within and without the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), a law enacted in June 2002 restricted party political activities to Kampala, barred civil servants and members of the security forces from joining parties other than NRM, and gave parties six months to register as a company, which the main parties immediately refused to do.
However, during 2003 President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni publicly committed himself to the reintroduction of multiparty politics before the elections due in 2006, subject to a referendum in July 2005, in which, with the opposition calling for a boycott, fewer than 50 per cent of voters turned out to vote overwhelmingly in favour.
In 2004 Museveni announced that he had retired from the army, while remaining army commander-in-chief. This opened the way for him to participate in multiparty politics. During 2005 the government proposed substantial change to the constitution including lifting the limit of two presidential terms. In November 2005 Museveni said he would stand in the 2006 election, and his main rival Besigye was charged with treason and terrorism and taken into custody. Besigye was then released on bail in January 2006 and held some political rallies.
In the first multiparty elections for 25 years, held in February 2006, Museveni (with 59.3 per cent of the votes) defeated Dr Kizza Besigye (37.4 per cent) of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in a turnout of 69 per cent. The ruling NRM also won the parliamentary elections, securing 206 seats, while the FDC took 37, the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) nine, the Democratic Party (DP) eight and independents 37. The Commonwealth observer group present, led by former President of Botswana Sir Ketumile Masire, believed that the election had enabled the will of the people to be expressed and that the result reflected the wishes of those who were able to vote.
Museveni won the February 2011 presidential election with 68.4 per cent of the votes cast and his main rival, Besigye, secured 26.0 per cent. The concurrent parliamentary elections were won by the ruling NRM, with a total of 263 of the 375 seats in the enlarged Parliament. The FDC took 34 seats, the DP 12, the UPC ten and independents 44. A Commonwealth observer group led by Dame Billie Miller, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados, was present at the elections.