Ugandan presidential contender Kizza Besigye urged the East African country’s election body to allow the opposition to monitor vote-counting for this week’s elections and accused authorities of a crackdown on opposition campaigners.

The Feb. 18 vote “has no chance of being free and fair,” Besigye, 56, told reporters Tuesday at his home in the capital, Kampala. He said the Electoral Commission shouldn’t interfere with parallel tally centers and called for the body to speak out against what he described as the “militarization” of the polls.

Kizza Besigye, center, in Kampala
Kizza Besigye, center, in Kampala
Photographer: Isaac Kasamani/AFP via Getty Images

Besigye, who fronts the Forum for Democratic Change, is one of seven candidates challenging President Yoweri Museveni for the top job in African’s biggest coffee exporter. An opinion poll conducted by Ipsos Research Feb. 1-8 showed Besigye trailing the 71-year-old incumbent by a 28 percent to 53 percent margin, the Kampala-based Daily Monitor newspaper reported.

Besigye was briefly detained on Monday after he allegedly tried to lead a campaign procession through the central business district of Kampala.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE