Uganda Vote Count Starts as Museveni Looks to Extend Rule

  • Tally begins after some polling delays, social-media blocking
  • Opposition candidate briefly detained by police, party says

Uganda shut down some social media and briefly detained the main opposition candidate as counting began for an election in which President Yoweri Museveni will probably extend his three-decade rule.

The winner will lead an economy aiming within two years for its first oil output that may be exported by a planned pipeline to the Indian Ocean. Recent opinion polls show Museveni leading the seven other candidates, with his main opponent, Kizza Besigye, trailing by at least 20 percentage points.

People cast their vote at the Nasuti polling station
People cast their vote at the Nasuti polling station
Photographer: Isaac Kasmani/AFP/Getty Images

Balloting was delayed at some polling stations in the capital, Kampala, because election materials arrived late. The country’s communications regulator said some social-media platforms had been restricted to stop further campaigning.

Besigye was briefly detained after a confrontation with police in the Kampala district of Naguru as voting drew to a close, Ingrid Turinawe, a spokeswoman for his party, the Forum for Democratic Change, said by phone. Officers escorted him home, she said. Three days before the vote, Besigye was also held for a short time after leading a march in the city’s center.

Rising Trend

About 15.3 million people were registered to cast ballots for the presidential and legislative elections at 28,010 polling stations across the East African nation. Results are due within 48 hours of polls closing, with candidates needing more than 50 percent of ballots to win outright and avoid a run-off vote.

Museveni’s re-election bid shows a rising trend in Africa, where a growing number of leaders are trying to extend their rule, in some cases amending the constitution to do so. Uganda’s $27 billion economy has companies such as London-based Tullow Oil Plc and France’s Total SA developing its estimated 6.5 billion barrels of oil resources. Uganda’s army contribute troops for the African Union campaign fighting al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia and backed South Sudan’s government in that country’s civil war.

Vote Credibility

New York-based Human Rights Watch has warned that police brutality against government opponents risks undermining the vote’s credibility. Amnesty International has urged the disbanding of a civilian anti-crime force affiliated with the ruling party, which could number 1 million and whose members have allegedly carried out brutal assaults. Uganda’s electoral body on Wednesday accused opposition groups of trying to form illegal militias.

Besigye, who has lost three previous elections to Museveni, has complained of intimidation and said the vote won’t be free and fair, raising the prospect of unrest in the aftermath. Security forces teargassed his supporters in the center of Kampala on Monday. Police said one person died in scuffles. The electoral commission, which is using a new biometric system to register voters, has pledged to oversee credible polls.

The European Union’s chief observer, Eduard Kukan, said earlier Thursday there were some delays, but the situation was “relaxed” with long lines at polling stations suggesting a high turn-out.

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